They roomed together as acting students at Wright State University three decades ago, and today Shari Doran and Jane Hajduk have teamed up again to produce a new short-form comedy series about menopause and friendship.
In “Thee Third Act,” Hajduk and Doran play best friends determined to try just about anything to ease their symptoms, especially hot flashes, sleepless nights and mood swings.
While the series addresses a serious health topic, Hajduk and Doran’s goal is to make viewers laugh as their characters try outlandish remedies, including seeing a life coach, practicing yoga and trying tabooed hormone replacement therapy.
“We would share some of the things we each tried to get relief and we were just laughing. And we still are,” said Hajduk, who graduated from Wright State in 1989 with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Acting.
Doran and Jane Hajduk describe the 12-episode series as irreverent, fast-paced and heartwarming. They created two characters that many women will find relatable and who can help some people better understand what women go through during menopause.
“We both were in menopause and still are,” said Doran, who graduated from Wright State in 1988 with a B.F.A in acting. “It’s never-ending. What’s funnier than menopause?”
The series is also about two women’s friendship, something that was easy for Doran and Hajduk, who are friends in real life, to explore.
“Thee Third Act” debuts on Monday, Jan. 29, on YouTube at youtube.com/@theethirdact.
Future episodes will be released weekly on Mondays.
Each episode is two to five minutes long, which Doran and Hajduk say will make it easily watchable for all generations of entertainment. One of their goals is to reach 400,000 YouTube subscribers so they can begin monetizing their channel.
Doran and Hajduk, both of whom live in Los Angeles, have had discussions with production companies about expanding the “Thee Third Act” into 30-minute episodes.
They are already halfway through writing a second season and, for now, are focused on getting the most out of the project’s current short-form format.
“We’re having so much fun with how it is now we’re not even worried about that,” Doran said. “We’re just worried about getting it out there and letting the audience have fun with it.”
Although Doran and Hajduk are officially the writers, producers and stars of “Thee Third Act,” they are involved in every aspect of the project.
“We are everything,” Hajduk said. “We are producers, we are casting directors, we are makeup artists, we are set decorators. We did this for not a lot of money. We got a lot of friends to come in to do this for not a lot of money.”
Through their new production company, Third Act Productions, they also hope to pursue other projects.
As acting students at Wright State, they lived together on campus for three years.
At Wright State, Hajduk played the lead role in “To Jillian on her 37th Birthday,” while Doran played Juliet in “Romeo and Juliet” and Our Lady of the Spa in the musical “Nine.” They also performed in several productions in the Herbst Theatre and frequently worked with motion picture students on their film projects.
They also performed together in the musical “Evita.” As the understudy for Eva Peron, Doran had to perform during one performance when the lead actress passed out and could not finish the show.
“I remember that so well,” Hajduk said. “She went on and was amazing.”
“It was so cohesive,” Doran said. “Everybody in the cast was pulling for me.”
They both moved to Los Angeles after graduating from Wright State.
They credit Wright State’s theatre program for providing the structure and preparation to succeed professionally.
“Wright State was a great experience for both of us,” Doran said. “It really did propel me to work in the business. I’ve been out here for 30 years and am still working — that’s a testament to Wright State.”
Doran is a producer, writer and actor who has worked with Wayne Brady’s Making It Up Productions, Warner Brothers, ABC, Universal Studios and Princess Cruise Lines. Most recently, she wrote and produced “History Speaks: Diary of a Generation,” a World War II document available on Amazon Prime.
Her one-woman show “Anne,” based on the life writings of Anne Morrow Lindbergh, has toured both coasts. She created the show as a student at Wright State. She also co-wrote and produced “The Basement,” an original play that premiered in California.
Hajduk has worked in film, television and theater. In addition to Third Act Productions, she works with Inspire to produce faith-based projects and raise money for charitable organizations. Through her company VEW Productions, she has produced and starred in many short films and theatre projects.
Hajduk and Doran previously worked together on several other projects including “The Watch” a short-form series about a mystical pocket watch and people’s need for time.
Doran and Hajduk started working on “Thee Third Act” less than a year ago and it quickly came together. After “brain dumping,” as Doran calls it, possible story ideas, they each wrote six scripts and met regularly over Zoom to revise each episode. Filming took place over four days.
The two friends have challenged each other creatively as they worked on the show.
Hajduk had never written a script before, but with Doran’s encouragement and guidance, she now considers herself a writer.
“You can learn the technical part of writing,” Doran said. “You can’t learn creativity or a storyline that an audience will engage with. That comes instinctually, and Jane is really good at it, and she’s been around comedy for so long.”
Although Doran stopped acting to focus on writing and producing, Hajduk insisted they star together in “Thee Third Act.”
“Jane dragged me into it,” Doran said. “She wouldn’t do it unless I acted in it.”
For Doran and Hajduk, “Thee Third Act” has grown into a special project that is all theirs.
“I still want to audition, and I still want to get cast,” Doran said. “But I feel like I have this thing that is our own.”
“If there was anything good that came out of menopause it was that we were thriving creatively in our third act,” Doran said. “I feel like we’re soaring more than we have. Maybe it’s that irreverence that gives you a freedom that I haven’t had before, and I don’t think Jane has had before.”