The Manhattan Arts Center hosted its annual Sheldon Edelman One Act Play Festival July 7 and 8. The event was renamed in honor of a former member of the MAC who died in 2016.
“[Edelman] was one of the first members of the first Manhattan community here,” Kim Riley, festival co-director and chair of the theater committee, said. “He wrote plays for the One Acts, and he has acted in One Acts, as well as the full, big-season plays. We lost him this past year, and so it’s dedicated to his memory and the memory of his work.”
The festival featured four plays that were directed and performed by local Manhattan residents, including “Paventi,” written by Patrick Falcon; “A Woman of Character,” written by Ward Just and adapted for the stage by David Smit; “Flowers for Algernon,” written by David Rogers and based on the book by Daniel Keyes; and “Overtones,” written by Alice Gerstenberg.
Donald J. Davis, K-State alumnus and director of “Paventi,” said the festival gave him the opportunity to direct for the first time.
“I didn’t actually pick the play,” Davis said. “On the MAC’s website, usually a few months out before auditions, you can list things you’re interested in, either acting or directing or doing something else, whether that’s running lights or being a stage manager. I ended up getting an email that said we need you to direct, here’s a play. And that play was the play that I was given.”
Part of the purpose of the festival is to find new talent like Davis, Riley said. The festival draws in directors and actors who often go on to work with other productions with the MAC.
“Originally, we were trying to identify potential new directors for the full season plays,” Riley said. “As a kind of secondary goal, we realized we were getting quite a few actors that were very good, very talented, that we didn’t know and hadn’t seen before. They began to audition for the full season shows and become a great contribution.”
Like many actors before him, Jacob Disberger got his start in theater with Sheldon Edelman. Disberger befriended Edelman in 2014 during their work with “Meet Me in St. Louis” at the Columbian Theater. Disberger auditioned for the festival to honor Edelman’s memory.
“He is such a talented actor,” Disberger said. “I auditioned for the One Acts because it was the Sheldon Edelman One Acts, not just the One Acts. I wanted to do this for him. I wanted to do this for his memory. I feel this is a good way to continue his legacy.”
Cherrine Scott, stage manager and soundboard operator, said she also knew Edelman and was glad the MAC named the festival in Edelman’s honor.
“[Edelman] was a great guy,” Scott said. “He had been doing shows for a really long time. He gave a lot of character when he performed, and he really cared about the people who were in them. It’s nice to honor him because he’s been so involved for years.”
Several members of the audience who joined Saturday evening’s performances knew Edelman as well. Jan Galitzer, attendee of the festival and Manhattan resident, said she and her husband often attend performances because they are volunteers for the MAC and want to support it.
“[Edelman] was a very close member of our family,” Galitzer said. “The MAC is a really important element in our community. The arts are very important in our community. My husband and I are volunteers and spend a lot of time here. We came because we come to almost everything at the MAC that we can. This one was special because it was in honor of [Edelman].”