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Directing Students Test Talents in Showcase

Becca Halaney, Reporter

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World Drama students performed scenes from international playwrights’ scripts in their midterm showcase on Dec. 13 in the Little Black Box. The showcase was directed by four of the eight total Directing II students in the class, with the other three serving as assistant directors. Each student director picked a scene of roughly 15 minutes in length under the supervision of theater teacher Ms. Lydia Coats.

The four scenes chosen encompassed a wide variety of themes, tones, and genres. The first scene was a segment of the play Joined at the Head, by Catherine Butterfield, that revolves around two women named Maggie — one a struggling author, the other dying from cancer — and the connection they share. This scene was directed by Anthony Nielson ‘18 with Paris Bowman ‘18, Noah Darden ‘18, Asher Lipscomb ‘18, Jane Moritz ‘18, Xavier Ramirez ‘18, and Emiliano Ruiz ‘18 performing. Caitlin Dugan ‘18 served as the assistant director. Bowman had to step in to play the lead at the last moment, and handled the added pressure with admirable confidence.

Darden stated that what made their scene so powerful “had to be the emotion.”

“At first it looked like there was hope for [Maggie] but then it just didn’t turn out good, because that’s how it is, life happens, things don’t go the way you plan, but you find a way to move forward with that,” Darden said.

The second scene, a segment of Waiting for Godot, by Samuel Beckett, was directed by Rebecca Halaney ‘18. It follows two men, Estragon (played by Michael Phipps ‘18) and Vladimir (played by Quintin Charro ‘18), as they do exactly what the title suggests. Erick Bonilla Roblero ‘18 was Halaney’s assistant director, and ran lights and tech for all of the scenes performed in the showcase. Students in the World Drama portion of the class working with those in Directing II in multiple different roles, as Bonilla Roblero did, helped the two classes bond and work together more effectively. In the world of theater, this connection is referred to as ‘ensemble’.

“The strongest part [of the showcase] was the ensemble,” Branson Clements ‘18, a World Drama student, said. “The connections we built as a group and the strength and relationships we discovered as a group really helped us build our scenes. We built ensemble by [playing] a lot of games and talking. We really just hung out as a group, became good friends, and we learned about each other.”

The third scene was a short, Jewish children’s play entitled Dreidel, written by Evan Guilford-Blake. It follows two parallel storylines — one of a grandfather telling his granddaughter about the miracle that befell him when he accidentally broke his dreidel on the day before Hanukkah as a child, and another of the granddaughter as an adult retelling the story through her grandfather’s eyes when he was a boy. This scene was directed by Katherine Harris ‘18 and featured performers Jack Mattson ‘18, Emily Perkins ‘18, Tristan Yates ‘18, and Bowman in a second role. Julianne Uherek ‘18 held the role of assistant director and also played a small part. Uherek is the only Directing I student in the class, and despite this, she will still be taking on the role as one of the lead directors in the Spring semester performance.

“I look forward to seeing what the directors will do next semester in our spring showcase,” Lipscomb said.

The final scene was the first full, slapstick comedy in the showcase — a portion of the film Monty Python and the Holy Grail, written by the comedy group Monty Python, reimagined for the live stage. This scene was directed by Megan Purcell ‘18 and featured performers Matthew Donald ‘18, Mary Stansbury ‘18, Lipscomb, Clements, and Ruiz, with assistant director Cyril Prat-Vincent ‘18 also taking on a minor role. The section of the script Purcell chose details the characters as they fight off a man-eating rabbit, deploy a Holy Hand Grenade, and plunge into the depths of the Cave of Ahh in search of the Holy Grail.

“It was over-the-top and fun,” Lipscomb said.

Although there were occasional hiccups in the transitions between scenes and in the performances themselves, the students had learned how to handle these situations in advance from Ms. Coats.

“The improvisation we’ve been taught to do in our class has really helped us learn how to recover from these incidents,” Clements said. “I feel really lucky to have been blessed with Ms. Coats as a teacher.”

Most of the issues involved misplaced props and technical difficulties with lighting rather than forgotten lines or cues.

“We had issues with our props,” Lipscomb said. “One of our props ended up not being in the proper box, so we had to pantomime that, and then we had some issues with the costume change. I was actually supposed to go on with a wig, but because of time issues and the fact that some other actors went on and said their lines really fast, I was just not able to get the wig on in time.”

Despite these small bumps along the way, the showcase proved to be a valuable experience for the students who performed and directed it.

“I just want to say that overall, the showcase was amazing and it was a great experience,” Clements said. “I’d highly recommend taking theater to anyone who’s interested in theater arts.”

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