Five heavy tales and a comedy: Students to direct plays

BY GRACE MANDATO – STAFF WRITER

On Dec. 9 at 6:30 p.m. in Degenstein Theater, six ten-minute one-act plays will be performed for the Student Directing Showcase. Six senior theater majors completing a directing class each chose a play at the beginning of the semester and spent the past few months working with it.

The performances are free of charge and open to the public.

A play called “Electric Roses,” written by David Howard, will be the first performance, directed by senior Ann Marley.

“[The play] is about domestic violence,” Marley said. “It deals with a woman choosing to leave her husband.” Marley mentioned that she likes tragic plays and it impacted which one she chose.

“Eye to Eye,” written by Christopher Graybill and directed by senior Faith Sacher, will be performed next.

“It’s a comedy,” Sacher said. “I really love them and thought it would be a lot of fun.”

“100 Women,” written by Kristina Halvorson, will be directed by senior Christina Ungaro.

“‘100 Women’ is about relationships and how those relationships over time have the tendency to weaken and even break apart, but no matter what, those bonds created can never truly die,” Ungaro said.

She explained how working so closely with the play throughout the semester caused its theme to shift for her. “When I first read through the script, I thought the major theme revolved around homosexuality and the struggles one goes through to come out of the closet,” Ungaro said. “But after further dissecting, it ended up being much deeper than that.”

Senior Jacob Young is directing the next play, “Hour of Lamps” by Debbie Mitchell.

“It’s a play kind of about leaving your childhood behind and moving on,” Young said. “It was a theme relevant to myself and I could get interested in it.”

“Dancing with a Devil,” written by Brooke Berman, will be directed by senior Benjamin Eisenhower.

“It’s about a woman recounting her rape,” Eisenhower said. The play has three actors; two are portraying the woman at different ages and one is portraying the man who raped her. Eisenhower added, “There are three people telling the same story, but there are three different points of view.”

The final performance, “Body Talk,” written by Tanya Palmer, is directed by senior Steven Gebhardt and is about three women talking about their insecurities, according to Gebhardt.

“It’s about someone struggling with ego, someone struggling to connect with people, and someone struggling with self-image,” Gebhardt said.

According to Gebhardt, he chose the piece because “the title just jumped out at [him].” He added, “I read it and I was drawn to the writing.”

Gebhardt has three actors, but he also has a minor role in the play as a therapist. “I am the only director from the class that will [be on stage],” he said.

The seniors have been preparing for the showcase in a directing class taught by Doug Powers, associate professor of theater. Early in the semester, they picked the plays and held auditions open to any student on campus. “Even though it is through the theater department, people who are outside the major and have an interest in theater can audition,” Ungaro said.

Sacher, who was part of Student Directing Showcases as a first-year and sophomore, said, “It’s a good opportunity for underclassmen to get involved.”

Each director cast and worked with three actors. Young said the directors are using what they have learned the past few years at Susquehanna to teach the younger actors. Young said, “We kind of get to take this mentor position, which is really interesting and fun for me.”

The semester involved rehearsals between the directors and their cast as much as a couple times a week.

“I really like being able to collaborate with actors in order to create a piece,” Eisenhower said.

An interesting aspect of the pieces the director’s chose is that many of them deal with heavy topics.

“I don’t know why, but we all just picked such dark shows,” Gebhardt said.

Eisenhower mentioned how he has never directed something as serious as “Dancing with a Devil” before and how “it’s been a bit of a struggle leaving the play in the rehearsal room and not bringing all that negative energy out.”

As theater majors, the six seniors have held various on-stage roles over the years, but many of them had never directed before.

“I’d rather be acting than directing,” Gebhardt said. He added, “It’s amazing how many responsibilities one person has to take on to put on a 10-minute scene.”

Young said he hopes the audience will pick up on the themes. “Directing is about bringing up the subtext and themes of the plays. It’s the director’s job to make it clear,” Young said.