Community Ensemble Theater Gets its “Just Desserts”


Strassel, Brown and O’Neal discuss producing Brown’s play “The Winter Prince” for Just Desserts

Strassel describes his plans for Just Desserts at a mass meeting in the Craft Theater

Quinn Strassel has put on four plays during his time at Community. But for the next month, he’ll be working with student directors, writers, actors, and crew members in CET to produce not just one play, but about ten of them at once.

Strassel explained at a mass meeting before the break that Just Desserts, CET’s next production, will not be an individual narrative piece, but a series of short scenes and one-act plays strung together into a single show. Each of the 8-10 acts will be about ten minutes, and Strassel is encouraging students to perform monologues or songs from musicals in the gaps between them.

What makes this play unusual, even by Strassel’s standards, is his plan for the directing. Strassel himself will direct a few of the plays, but he plans to recruit student directors for the majority. “That way, students  get an opportunity to be leaders,” Strassel explained.

Jessica Shapiro, president of the CET student board, agrees that student directors are up to the challenge. “People from Community are very artsy and responsible,” she said. “I think that Quinn’s doing a good thing by letting students take charge.”

Any upperclassman in the school is eligible to direct an act for Just Desserts, and Strassel encourages all students to give it a try, stressing that producing a ten-minute play requires much less experience and time commitment than a full length one. In theory, this different way of organizing a play will allow more new students to join CET as actors or techies, since “if you’re doing a ten-minute scene, you probably don’t have rehearsal too many times a week.”

Although Strassel has collected several potential plays, he’s also very open to submissions from students. At the mass meeting, he encouraged students to bring him short excerpts from favorite plays, or even to write their own and see their work produced.

Strassel, Brown and O’Neal discuss producing Brown’s play “The Winter Prince” for Just Desserts

Lydia Brown, a senior who’s been involved in CET since her freshman year, is planning to take advantage of this opportunity. Although her two-act play The Winter Prince, which she has been working on since freshman year, is too long for Just Desserts, she still wants to see it acted out. Together with Britney O’Neal, a junior with an interest in directing, she has been selecting scenes to submit to Strassel.

“I’ve always wanted to direct,” O’Neal explained, “and [Brown] has always wanted to have one of her plays performed. So it was kind of a match made in heaven.”

According to the plan Strassel outlined, each director will have semi-autonomous control over their play, including their own personal cast of actors and one show crewhead, a tech member in charge of coordinating all the technical aspects of that particular act.

The creation of the new role of show crewhead and the unfamiliar format of the Just Desserts has sparked confusion among the crew. Many crew members are unsure about how the show crewheads and the traditional crews will interact.

“It’s going to be awkward,” speculated sounds crewhead Nora Dwyer, a sophomore. “I’m not going to be in charge of finding the sounds that they need; they’re going to find them and bring them to me, probably… I’m going to be pressing buttons instead of doing work.”

Others are wondering how the sheer number of acts will affect the technical side of preparing for a performance. “They’re talking about four or five different plays and sets,” said O’Neal. “That’s hard.”

In addition to creating new positions, Strassel has also decided to enforce a few more restrictions on already existing ones. To keep people focused and simplify the scheduling, he has asked that actors only act in one play and that crewheads not take on an additional acting role. Student directors may be allowed to perform a monologue or sing a song from a musical, but that will be one of the only exceptions.

Strassel had originally intended to put on Lorraine Hansberry’s A Raisin In the Sun as CET’s spring performance, but he was forced to change his plans due to the time demands of his infant son and a lack of diversity in the student body. Still, Strassel remains committed to promoting diversity by getting a wider range of students involved in CET. Just Desserts, with its myriad new roles and reduced time commitment, may be a perfect way to achieve that goal.

Performances of Just Desserts will take place May 11th and 12th and include a pie sale and a silent auction during intermission. Auction items will include set pieces and props from many of CET’s previous plays, most notably the puppets from Avenue Q.