By JD McKay
By Phoebe Bierman
Photo by Shelby Pennington
By Hannah Tarr
Additional reporting by Eleni Pappas
Every night for the past month, actors and stage managers have been hard at work in Studio One rehearsing two different shows. Anton Chekhov’s The Marriage Proposal and Eric Kaiser’s Charge open tonight in FC’s annual One Act Festival. What might surprise a passerby observing these rehearsals is that not a single adult is involved in either of the shows. Instead, these One Acts are entirely student produced.
FC Theatre is well renowned for its high standard, and students take pride in that reputation. However, Kirsten Gude, the junior who serves as Charge’s stage manager, recognizes that even in this esteemed environment, the phrase “student produced” may be a turnoff for many potential audiences.
“Most times with a show, it’s clearly led by [Robbie] Steiner, [director of theatre arts] and [Sophia Bierman, technical theatre teacher], and people expect it to be good, because those are their jobs,” Gude said. “But because [these shows are] run by students, most people wouldn’t really expect much. They would just kind of expect a half put together show.”
Gude expects the shows will go against people’s expectations, though. Not only will audiences be impressed with the shows themselves, but they will be impressed with the student production team.
“I think it just shows the audience how independent and responsible the students are within the department,” said Gude. “It just shows the community that Mr. Steiner and Ms. B have taught us and we have taken it upon ourselves to be professionals.”
Director of The Marriage Proposal and senior Josey Waterbury, loves the feeling of knowing that students are able to prove themselves through the One Acts.
“Knowing that you don’t need a teacher involved, and knowing that you can do it. Knowing that it is possible for group of students to come together and make art on the stage,” said Waterbury.
She said that reliance on adults and teachers can inhibit students who try to create art, so it is important that students get the chance to expand and learn in different ways.
Cast member Stevie Griffin, a junior who plays Natalia Stepanova in The Marriage Proposal, agreed that it is a great opportunity for students to learn how to put on their “big girl pants.”
“This is a stepping stone into adulthood,” said Griffin. “A stepping stone into our future, and so I think it’s important for students to see that now and it’s a super good opportunity.”
Junior Connor Nevitt, who plays George in Charge, is a staunch believer in the value of independence because it pays off in the long run.
“It really teaches you the way of being independent because you have to be independent if you want your show to succeed,” he said. He said that the students have learned that lesson, so the shows will be successful.
Gude credits the success of the shows to their organization and well-structured production team. Just like any FC show, there are managers and designers, each with their own assistants. All are organized by a production manager and a technical director, senior David Greenwell. These people make sure that everyone else is getting the information that they need, so the process has been relatively easy as well as enjoyable.
While the technical side of the shows adhere to a strict way of doing things, the one acts have allowed the actors to work in a slightly unconventional way. Many of the performers have noted the importance of their directors being their peers. In a typical show, there is generally a strict rule against actors advising the director about how their or someone else’s character might act. Here, that is not so important. The directors are by no means letting their casts direct for them, but both Waterbury and Charge director Jordan Burger, a senior, have opened the floor up to more collaboration during their rehearsals.
Waterbury loves to learn how her cast members each approach problems differently from what she originally had in mind. She said that she keeps the end result in mind as a director, and the cast think about what they think their character would do. Then, those concepts combine.
“You kind of have to blend that and so the end result is kind of always moving,” said Waterbury.
The entire concept of Burger’s show changed through this collaboration. He had a vision going into the show, but through collaboration he said that has evolved.
“It’s not at all what I’d envisioned in the beginning. And that’s a good thing, because now, as a company, we’ve developed something better than what I originally had in mind. And I think that what we make as a company will be better than anything that any one person can make on their own.”
The casts also enjoy this collaboration. Griffin said she has learned how to be independent as a performer. Nevitt has enjoyed what he considers to be a laid back rehearsal process, but he mostly loves how the cast is able to explore their characters without fear of disrespecting the director.
“We’re all on equal ground and it’s sort of mutually understood throughout that process,” he said.
Burger appreciates Nevitt and his co-stars for their dedication to rehearsing well.
“The rehearsals are so much fun,” he said.“The cast is an absolute delight- they all have these amazing, vibrant personalities, and they’re all putting a really good effort towards the show, they’re all really excited about it. I’m feeling no stress in rehearsals- yet, a least. It’s all just we come in, we’re going to work through a scene, and we’re going to learn something about our characters. And it’s just absolutely delightful.”
Gude, who is required as stage manager to take notes at every Charge rehearsal, said rehearsals have also been her favorite part of the process. Burger finished blocking the show quickly, so the cast has been able to dedicate rehearsal time to diving in and exploring what the characters’ intents are within the show. Gude thinks this is a lot of fun. She is most amused by Burger’s unconventional character work methods: just a few days before she was interviewed, Gude and her assistant stage manager, sophomore Garrett Martin, participated as Burger led the five-member cast in a meditative exercise with all of the lights off.
Meditation may seem like an alien character work tactic to someone accustomed to Steiner’s rehearsals. Burger acknowledges the differences between his and Steiner’s directing ideas, but he doesn’t think they’re important.
“I think it’ll be a new experience for everyone who watches the show. As someone who’s [been directed by] Mr. Steiner, my directing is very different from Mr. Steiner’s,” he said. “Not to say that any one of us is better or worse- I’m sure he’s better, he has more experience- but we have very different approaches to what we do, different thoughts about different shows.”
Burger does think he has one thing over Steiner, though, or even an Academy Award winning director who were to direct Charge– Burger loves Charge.
“The reason, I think, this show is going so well so far for me, is because I love the script so much,” he said. “I love the writing, and I love what it’s about. If someone who didn’t feel as deeply for the script tried to do the show, I’m sure they could do it well, but I think it’d be different. I think that as a director, you should only direct a show that you are truly in love with. So that way you’re not just directing to direct, you’re directing because you have something to say onstage. You have something you want to show the audience and share with them.”
Burger does have a message he wants to share with the audience through Charge, as does Waterbury through The Marriage Proposal. In addition to proving to the audience that kids can do anything, both cannot wait to see what audiences think of the shows. Waterbury hopes The Marriage Proposal is fun for the audience.
“Onstage, the actors are having fun, and I want the audience to have fun with it,” she said. “And there is a lesson to be learned from Chekhov, there’s always a lesson to be learned from a show. But I hope that with this show, after watching all of the shows this year, like Bonnie and Clyde and upcoming Rabbit Hole, there’s such a darkness that has [been] portrayed on stage. And the show is just fun and light and exciting and I hope that people enjoy it.”
The One Act Festival opens tonight, March 16 at 7:30. The Marriage Proposal plays before a 15 minute intermission, followed by Charge. The shows are performed again on Saturday, March 17 at 7:30, and the production closes on Sunday, March 18 after a 2 matinee. Tickets are available at http://www.floydcentraltheatre.org
By Hannah Clere
What you do concerning school safety?
“Well, school safety has been a priority for [the] Floyd County Sheriff’s Department since the Columbine shooting in 1999. At that time I was the SWAT commander here for our SWAT team and I was also the training officer. So I attended trainings across the country on how to train officers and how to respond to school shootings. I also assisted the Floyd County school system in writing their protocols in the school. So we trained in the school, we trained the staff, we helped the school system write their policies and procedures. We have continued that. Since then, every year we do training for the police officers and how to respond to school shootings. It’s not just school shootings, it doesn’t matter to us whether it’s a school or it’s a business; if it is an active shooter, we want to be able to respond.”
What advice would you give to schools to ensure intruder safety?
“First thing that we advise the schools is to be proactive. Note your red flag issues. If you have a student that has gone out of social media, let us know. If you have a student that says something, let us know. Another thing is we need to harden the building. So when I say harden the building, we need to make sure that the building is secure, that intruders can’t get in. When you look at your school building and you know you can only go in one door, that is called hardening the building. Then there are levels of security inside the door. So you have to check in, you have to give your driver’s license, they scan your driver’s license to see who you are, is there a protective order on file or anything like that. We also have the doors numbered, and that is very important because we want to be able to say that there is a problem at Door 4, and everybody knows when they get there they’re going to Door 4.”
What opinions do you have concerning the gun regulations?
“I think that there’s enough laws about gun regulations. Keep in mind that my personal opinion is the gun didn’t kill anybody, the person that had the gun killed somebody. I could take a gun and I can lay it right in the middle of the floor in the cafeteria in your school and it will be fine laying right there, until somebody touches it, picks it up, and points it at somebody else, and puts their finger in the trigger. Then that’s a problem. The gun itself didn’t hurt anybody, it’s the person that had it. We see a large number of people injured on a regular basis with baseball bats, with knives, with all other kinds of weaponry. So the gun’s not the issue. There are plenty of gun laws that are out there. The biggest issue that you have out there that involves school shootings are mental illnesses. So you have to stop and think about the person that is going to do that, most of them don’t think past the killing itself. They don’t think they’re going to survive, they’re willing to die, so you’ve got to say, ‘What is their mental capacity?’ So it’s a mental illness issue. One of the important things that I stress to people on a regular basis, is that we have conflicting laws in this country. So if you have a bad day, and you’re having a time of your life, maybe you’re dealing with a death or you’re dealing with whatever and you check into a hospital for mental illness. Maybe it’s just temporary, maybe you’re just there for a couple of days and you get out and you’re taking medication for a little while, and everything is fine. Then three or four years later you decide to go buy a gun. There is no way to know that you were in the hospital because of the HIPPA laws, no one can tell us that you were in the hospital for mental illness that you had some kind of psychotic behavior or that you were on any kind of treatment. So you have to think about that, that there are things in the way. They won’t show up on a firearms background check. That’s the problem. I’ve been telling legislators and other people, ‘Look we need to fix that.’ Law enforcement and background checks need to know if there was some mental illness in there. The only thing that you can see in a background check is criminal behavior. Well, if you don’t commit any criminal behavior until that day, then there’s no reason to sell you a gun.”
What would you say is the importance of having a resource officer in a school building?
“Well, I’m the one that started the school resource officer program in New Albany Floyd County schools. I was the one that wrote the grant and started that program and in the beginning we saw such a huge connection that was made prior to having a police officer in the school everyday. Students would be very standoffish to police officers and police officers really didn’t know how to deal with students, with younger people. Once we saw how the interaction was with police officers in the building, number one the administration came to love it that they knew that there was a police officer there to help them with the difficult situations of a daily basis. Difficult parents, difficult kids, difficult situations. It took a lot off of their plate. Number two, over the years that we started that — which its been probably 15 or 20 years now that we’ve had police officers in school –we’ve seen a whole culture of young people now relating to law enforcement. So there’s a positive relationship there. The parents love it. There is no way in this community that the parents would stand still for taking police officers out of the building. There’s just no way. They love having an officer there. They know their child is safe and they want that officer there. It’s given us a great relationship with the school system. Were connecting better with the community. A lot of these officers are also involved in coaching and orchestra and different things because of course their kids go there. So there is a connection there, and that is positive for everybody in the community. Not only schools have an officer, but, like, SAM Tech pays a police officer to be out there all the time. They wanted that same relationship. So even in a business they found positive things to have an officer in the building. So SAM Tech pays for a police officer to be there. Almost every Sunday we’ve got almost 10 churches that pay for a police officer to be at church because they’re worried about the same thing that you are. They’re worried about church shootings, which have increased as well.”