Climate action performances first in Playshop series

Though the sun had already set, the large glass windows and bright interior lights of the Vukovich Center for Communication Arts made a clear goal for a pilgrimage of students, teachers and parents alike on Thursday, Sept. 8. 

The source of intrigue: The Playshop theatre’s three-week long series of shows in the Gladys Mullenix Black Theatre. (describe what the playshop theatre is/what they do)

To kick it off, the theme for the skits was climate change and environmental issues. 

“We’ve done eco-plays before here at Allegheny that are kinda just short dramas,” said (director and actor) Victoria Smith, ’23. “We’re doing four in one night, which gives the opportunity to do a lot of theatre.”

The shows are being directed by Visiting Assistant Professor of Theatre Rachel Hoey.

We shared four short pieces, from aliens betting on earth’s future to a first date gone awry,” Hoey said. “The series were new plays that were previously commissioned by Climate Change Theatre Action.”

As the lights dimmed, Rachel Hoey gave a brief explanation of the various student-made skits to follow. To start it off, Nolan Kons, ’26, and Nicholas Spartz, ’26, acted in “Failed Experiment.” The skit centered around two aliens: one a commander, Kons, and an underling, Spartz. 

Spartz described the skit as realism and comedy. The aliens were watching over humans, who are a failed experiment due to how horribly we treat our environment, and in the end, the pair made a bet on what to do with the humans. 

“We were pretty much crap-talking about the earth because it was descending towards self-destruction,” Kons said. “It was saying that we, as humans, put ourselves into a predicament that is hard to escape from.”

Following that was “Single-Use Plastic,” with Kaleialoha Froning, ’25, and Jacob Beaudoin, ’26. The skit featured acquaintances going on a date. 

“I would say the overarching message is to be forgiving towards yourself and to give yourself some grace for your shortcomings,” Froning said. “Sometimes we may feel ‘eco-anxiety’ and that every decision we make is going to positively or negatively affect the planet.”

As the date continued, though, it became more and more clear that Beaudoin’s character was uncomfortable with Froning’s character’s passion about preserving the environment, who selected to bring her  own spoon for a milkshake and taught her date about how damaging straws are for the environment. 

At the conclusion, the date walked off while Froning’s character continued eating her milkshake.

Next was an “abstract” skit performed by Smith and Emily Watters, ’25, “Blood on the Leaves.” It involved an implied sibling dynamic of a younger sibling, Watters, and older sibling, Smith. The skit spent a lot of time painting visuals with the phrasing, and even used a brown leaf prop as a metaphor for climate change.

“It uses the idea of hunter and bear,” Watters said. “There are all sorts of little sacrifices we can make in our lives — like not using single-use plastics — for the earth. But it was all about art and it was very abstract, so maybe someone else sees it differently.”

“Homosapiens,” the evening’s conclusion, starred Rae Robison, ’26, and Froning. Both characters were a “superior” and “evolved” version of the human species. The show itself included a lot of audience interactions, such as giving chocolate to the crowd and taking a group photo in the front row. 

I think the play ‘Homosapiens’ was a great piece to end on, with (Robison) giving us a last monologue in the spotlight,” Hoey said. 

The skit was intended as a metaphor of how humans treat other animals when humans lock them up in zoos and confine species to certain areas.”

After the production, Hoey informed the audience of a pizza party in the lobby. During that time, actors and audience members came together to chat and discuss about the Playshop while munching on some food. 

I was proud of the actors for going full force and making the plays come to life with minimal props (and) stage furniture,” Hoey said afterward. “The audience seemed to have a great time — they were receptive and engaged.”

The second week of the Playshop reading series took place on Sept. 15, at 7:00 p.m. Directed by Smith, “Miss Julie” was an LGBTQ+ romance between two lesbians starring Liz Driscoll, ’25, and Sarah Allison, ’25. 

“I decided to look at queer theatre because it’s an important representation,” Smith explained.

For the final show, the Playshop will be performing “James and the Giant Peach.” It will be a production mainly steered toward children and will involve the majority of the actors. The performance will occur on Thursday, Sept. 22, at 7:00 p.m.