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