The New York Film Academy-Los Angeles (NYFA-LA) Acting for Film department kicked off their Fall Student Directed Play Series with two successful productions of The Play, an original play written by and starring Amr Nabeel and Grant Morningstar, (BFA Acting for Film), and directed by Matthew Harper-Johnston (BFA Acting for Film) and Commencing by Jane Shepard, directed by NYFA alum Juelz Velasquez. The plays were mentored by Associate Chair David Robinette and full-time faculty Cathy Giannone.
Two strangers meet while waiting for a theatre performance to begin. Through an extended conversation they both realize that they are connected beyond the confines of their seats.
The Play begins with a Slob slumped in his seat. A Snob clacks in, drying himself from the tempest outside. He sits next to the Slob and after a beat they begin speaking to one another. An awkward and fragmented introduction flourishes into shared laughter, boastful arguments, mutual irritations, and clashing opinions on art. On this journey, they discover that the impact they have on one another is not constrained to the row they sit in. Beneath the sharp-tongued combat and competition for four-syllable words lies a story that explores forgiveness and acceptance. They both have played a role in each other’s lives, for better or worse.
“I’ve never had to opportunity to put on a play which was written by a fellow student and that really interested me,” says Harper-Johnston about his experience with The Play. “As a director, part of my vision in every project is to incorporate other people’s vision so the whole project becomes very collaborative and familial. Having the opportunity to work on something where such a strong vision was already established was such an exciting challenge. Grant and Amr wrote a really interesting play that have thematic similarities to the previous plays I had worked on. It explores the awkward silences of real life and is also a battle of wits and the plays I love to work on usually have one or both of those aspects.”
Writer and co-star Amp Nabeel declared, “It’s been such an honor to work with such fantastically creative and ingenious individuals. I’m extremely grateful to have had the opportunity to create this piece of theatre, which undoubtedly, could not have been done without the contributions of all those involved.”
Kelli can’t wait for the blind date her friends have set her up on, until it turns out to be a very disappointed lesbian named Arlin. Mutually appalled, yet appallingly intrigued, they proceed to pull the screws loose on both straight and gay women’s culture, to find common ground in the search for love and self.
“This was my first experience directing after being involved in many Student Directed Plays,” says Velasquez. “I can’t believe how much I’ve learned and grown from directing this play.”
The next work in the Student Directed Plays series will be A Long Time Ago an original play written and directed by NYFA Alum Thomas Steward.