College and high school students in Manchester are taking February by theatrical storm, starting this weekend with the Saint Anselm Abbey Players’ One-Act Play Festival Thursday, Feb. 6, through Saturday, Feb. 8, at 7:30 p.m. Next week, Central High School’s Maskers drama club presents its show of Winter Shorts, Thursday, Feb. 13, through Saturday, Feb. 15, at 6:30 p.m.
The players invite audiences to come and see what happens when students take over everything, from acting to directing to PR — and not just because their theater programs depend on it. (Though their theater budgets do rely on the show’s ticket sales.)
The Anselm Abbey Players’ One-Act Play Festival
Normally, the rehearsal period for the Abbey Players’ annual festival is just four weeks long. The time commitment is less than it is for the fall drama and the spring musical, as the plays are shorter and the casts smaller.
But a handful of students at Saint Anselm College went above the call of duty in this year’s festival; one was Maeve Harrington, a junior who proposed the idea of performing a cutting of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet.
This cutting will have just four performers — a Romeo, a Juliet, and two other actors who will play a collection of roles — but that’s not the biggest challenge the cast faces.
“You have to be comfortable with the the language, and memorizing Shakespeare takes longer,” said Landis Magnuson, a Saint Anselm professor and director of the Abbey Players. In his 26 years at Saint A’s, this is the first time a student has taken on this lofty feat at the play festival. (Though the Abbey Players are no stranger to Shakespeare; they usually always perform a cut piece at the school’s sonnet-reading marathon on the Bard’s birthday.)
Harrington will be directing Romeo and Juliet with Kendra Beauregard. The other directors are Brian O’Connor, who directs a cast of six with Louder, I Can’t Hear You, a satire on the American family in the early 1970s, and Dylan Lindholm and Zachary Gregoric, two seniors, who are directing Once Upon a Beginning, a comedic telling of the biblical Adam and Eve story.
While all of the directors have theater experience, for many of them, it’s their first shot in the director’s chair and they weren’t sure what to expect.
“I was surprised at how quickly the cast picked up the directions by me and the play itself,” O’Connor said in a phone interview.
Lindholm had a similar experience.
“I’m actually surprised at how smoothly it’s been going. The cast was prepared from the start,” Lindholm said.
For these students, directing is an opportunity to make something that’s almost entirely theirs.
“It’s a chance to do something different,” Lindholm said. “For the student directors, it’s a chance to own the show. … They get to decide how everything is put together.”
And for many students, it’s actually a more comfortable experience.
“Your friend is directing you instead of an adult the Abbey Players hired. It’s much different, even for actors,” said Danielle Minty, a junior who is the working producer for all three plays.
Central High School’s
Maskers’ Winter Shorts
Last week, five of the six student directors — all juniors, save one — gathered around the stage at McAllaster Hall to talk about the drama club’s annual one-act event. They were just two weeks into rehearsal process; a few snow days interrupted the schedule, but not enough to disrupt these youngsters’ excitement of directing for the first time.
It may have even helped inspire Bridget Thornton, whose play, The Blizzard, is the event’s only drama.
The others are K, X, Z and V by Ian Williams, a play about the struggle to find a name for a drug that prevents adult bed-wetting, directed by Kimi Harrington; Dinner With the MacGuffins, a play about a boy whose family keeps disrupting his date, directed by Juliana Cable (who is also in charge of costumes); Drugs are Bad, a tongue-in-cheek satire about a rebellious boy who wants to go to college, work and earn money, directed by Ryan Gamblin; Action News: Now With 10 Percent More Action!, directed by Justin Horne; and Courting 101, which is about a class designed to unravel the mysteries of romance and dating, directed by Quynne Flegenheimer.
The plays are between 10 and 25 minutes, and all of the actors have at least two parts. Some of the directors are acting, too.
The students are responsible for nearly every aspect of the show: They find the props, the sets and costumes at thrift stores, dump stores, Craigslist and old attics; they build the sets, organize the lights and sounds, run the ticket booth and email reporters in hopes of coverage; and they collaborate with their peers in the plays’ directions.
There’s also a more casual atmosphere, the directors said, so there’s less intimidation for actors who want to make suggestions.
Cable has found this refreshing.
“Being a director and having the actors give suggestions has helped me be more open to other people’s ideas,” Cable said. “It helps to build better relationships, and it’s helped me to think more openly about things.”
And directing has provided another way for these kids to invest in an artistic medium that has been integral to their high school experiences.
“Drama has touched us and made us who we are in some kind of a way. And directing is an entirely different aspect of that. It’s an entirely different animal,” Gamblin said. “It’s cool for a lot of us because we get to be a bigger part than we normally would. We can have greater effect and have more ability to be creatively in control. We can share our ideas with our peers and really kind of make a work of art that we can call our own.”
As seen in the February 6, 2014 issue of the Hippo.