First Annual "One Act Fest Northwest" Line-up Announced

Whidbey Island Center for the Arts steps into the realm of one-act plays with its first ever “One Act Fest Northwest,” featuring British playwright Peter Shaffer’s “Black Comedy.” The comedy will be the highlight of a festival that will also showcase a handful of published and original one-act plays.

Directed by local thespian Tristan A.B. Steel, “Black Comedy,” is the epitome of a British farce — a classic tour-de-force — which is staged with a reverse-lighting scheme. In other words, the play opens on a darkened stage, and a few minutes later the show is “short circuited” and the stage is illuminated to reveal the characters in a “blackout.”

Ken Stephens, Gail Liston, David Mayer, and Brian Plebanek in rehearal

Ken Stephens, Gail Liston, David Mayer, and Brian Plebanek in rehearal

“For the rest of the play, the audience can see the characters, but the characters can’t see themselves,” Steel explained, and so the quirky hijinks ensue.

Steel called the play a “rollicking comedy,” which gives you some idea of its pace, and may explain why the director first fell in love with the play as an eighth-grader on a field trip to see University of Washington acting students tackle it.

Shaffer (of “Amadeus” and “Equus” fame) is good at employing the tricks of his trade and “Black Comedy” has plenty of tricks up its sleeve. In this play, Steel noted, the playwright uses dramatic irony to bolster the audience’s engagement.

Think of what Shakespeare does so well:  Juliet isn’t really dead, but poor Romeo hasn’t been told, and the audience leans in. “We know something the characters themselves don’t,” Steel said.  “In my experience, audiences enjoy having this inside knowledge.  They become more involved in the show, which builds their anticipation for both the expected and the unexpected.”

The cast of “Black Comedy” includes: David Mayer, Kent Junge, Melanie Lowey, Lucy Pearce, Gail Liston, Brian Plebanek, and Ken Stephens.


Winning plays selected to be included in ‘One Act Fest Northwest’ are:


  • Baby Food by David Lindsay-Abaire - Directed by Matthew Gregory
    Originally written as part of ‘The 24 Hour Plays on Broadway’, Baby Food is a contemporary comedy about an off-kilter couple desperately searching for godparents for their newborn infant.  "It's a raucous, foot-stomping evening which redefines fresh." - Black Book


  • The Universal Language by David Ives - Directed by Jennifer Bondelid
    A newspaper ad brings together Dawn, a young woman with a stutter, and Don, the creator and teacher of Unamunda, a wild and comic language.  Their lesson sends them off into a dazzling display of hysterical verbal pyrotechnics - and of course, true love.  "The writing is not only very funny, it has density of thought and precision of poetry." - The New York Times


  • Self-Adhesive by Richard Evans – Directed by Taylor Harrison
    Setting:  a post office sorting room with a table, slotted compartments, a bare work light, and bags of mail about.  On the table is an electric hotplate with a steaming tea kettle.  At rise: Postal Worker #98236 works alone sorting mail, stops, holds an envelope to the light, and then steams it open over the kettle...  From the rich mind of our local, beloved playwright Richard Evans, this world premier is not to be missed.


  • A one time reading of Chemistry by Max Cole-Takanikos and Katie Woodzick
    When Ann Druyan was falling in love with Carl Sagan, she went to a laboratory and recorded her brainwaves and heartbeat, and that data was turned into sound...  So begins this thought provoking look at the science behind love by Whidbey Island's own Max and Katie.  Join us in the piano bar prior to an evening of one-acts to hear them read their witty, original piece.


Performances for One Act Fest Northwest will take place at 7:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and at 2 p.m. Sundays; April 10 to 19. Don’t miss the festival closing party following the 2 p.m. Sunday, April 19 performance.


Tickets: Adult $22 / Senior $18 / Youth $15 / Matinee $15.

Click Here for Online Purchases. Online tickets are available until noon the day of the show. For tickets by phone, call the Box Office at 800.638.7631 or 360.221.8268. You can also buy tickets in person at the Box Office at 565 Camano Ave in Langley between 1 and 6 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday, or two hours before any show.