News Column

Short plays tease FCC audiences

May 5, 2013


May 05--In the theater world, a "triple threat" is someone who can act, sing and dance.

Fresno City College student Mohammad Shehata is another kind of theater triple threat: He acts, writes plays and can pen a pretty nifty theater review, too.

Shehata just returned from the Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival in Washington, D.C., where he was a national finalist in the critics competition. Now he has turned his attention to the college's annual "Teasers" event, a program of 10-minute plays written and directed by students.

His play is titled "Under the Spreading Chestnut Tree," which Shehata describes as a dystopian tale.

Six other playwrights will be represented as well.

"Teasers" was started by theater professor Debra Shapazian and English professor Pam Thomas, who is now retired and working for the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. The reins of the program were passed on to theater professor Charles Erven, who teaches the college's playwriting course.

The plays are written and developed out of the playwriting class and assigned a student director and designers.

"The plays are pretty diverse in subject and tone," Erven says. "It is a wonderfully intense and fun few weeks."

Anthony James Mele's play, "Spirit of the Legend," is a quirky comedy about two best friends on a quest to find dates to the prom. It's the first play he has written.

"Teasers is an excellent opportunity for aspiring playwrights to learn what it's like to have their original work transformed into a live production," Mele says. "I really enjoyed the process of watching a director and actors interpret my own creative vision."

For playwright Carlos Amarillas, the biggest challenge in his play, "The Weight of Friendship," about two former Marines getting together for their monthly drinking session, was to incorporate all the elements that make a full-length play into one that is only 10 minutes.

"Also not to make it feel like it was a skit, or a scene from a larger piece," he says.

The other playwrights represented in "Teasers" are Shane Gelegan, Ethan Hardcastle, Donald Pomnitz and Tou Moua.

Shehata, who has acted in recent Fresno City College productions and just finished up a two-month run in the Good Company Players production of "Wait Until Dark" at the 2nd Space Theatre, is looking forward to seeing his words come to life on stage.

And he can relax knowing he doesn't have to write a review afterward.


Theater preview

"Teasers: An Evening of 10-Minute Plays," 7:30 p.m. today, Tuesday aned WEdnesday, Studio Theatre, Fresno City College, (559) 442-8221. $5.


The reporter can be reached at, (559) 441-6373 and @donaldbeearts on Twitter. Read his blog at


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