Well, of course my heart is absouletly shattered

Scott Viau

As actors begin dressing the set, placing everything in a particular order, they run comments, suggestions and questions by the director, who answers with a calm, confident voice that is devoid of any nervousness a director with a looming opening night might feel. No, this isn’t Broadway, it’s the Black Box Theatre where select students will soon be performing in, and directing, one-act plays.

Students majoring in theatre will feel all the stress, headaches, laughter and fun of directing a one-act play, as it’s part of the requirement for the major. Students can either find a play that is only one act in length, or “cut” an act from a longer one. The act performed must be no longer than 30 minutes. Everything that’s involved with the production, from costumes to lighting, is done by the students.

Director of the Forest Roberts Theatre, James Panowski, feels the most complicated part of letting students direct their own plays is the transfer of relationships.

“The most difficult part is probably adjusting your professional-personal relationship, because the student directors are both peers for most of the cast,” Panowski said. “But they’re also the director, and these are the actors, and I emphasize this in directing theory.”

Panowski recommends student-directors to set a line between peer and actor.

“You’ve got to set the boundaries that, when we are here in rehearsal, I am the director, you are the actor, this is how our relationship is going to be,” Panowski said. “That’s something that some students adjust to very easily, others get pushed around, and when that happens it affects the final product.”

Panowski said he thinks the mandatory directing practicum is a key aspect to NMU’s theater program.

“A lot of students never have to direct a play,” he said. “It’s very important for our tech theatre students, those who are interested in lighting or sound design or costume design, to direct a play because then they learn what it’s like when they have to relate to a director . I think that’s terrific experience.”

Boston Marriage

Senior theater major Sherry Bollero is directing David Mamet’s “Boson Marriage,” which was inspired by the titular phrase given to two women who live together, and may or may not share an emotional and physical intimacy. Bollero describes it as a comedy of manners, which takes a satirical approach to the characteristics of a social class.

“It’s the taboo of the ‘Boston Marriage,’ and the bias between what people assume and just how these general misconceptions that people have and how actually absurd that it all is,” Bollero said.

While “Boston Marriage” may seem out of date, the presentation of the subject matter could still raise a few eyebrows.

“It can be offensive to people. Mamet’s thing is to shock and offend people. He wants to kind of challenge that,” Bollero said.

Although “Boston Marriage” is Bollero’s first attempt at directing at the college level, she’s not a stranger to it, having directed two student-written plays in high school. Although she has experience, Bollero said she doesn’t feel that directing is something she’d like to continue doing.

“It is fun to direct, but it’s a lot of hard work. I think I’m more comfortable as an actor,” she said.

She added that it’s somewhat hard to set boundaries between being peers with the actors in school and being a director with them at night.

“Setting the boundaries is kind of difficult. I’m directing one of my closer friends and it gets to be a challenge because you want to goof off, but at the same time you want to take some sort of authoritative role and say this has to get done now,” she said. “So you have to be more commanding and domineering than you generally would be.”

Junior Spanish major Kylynn Perdue-Bronson plays the role of Catherine, the lowly maid. Perdue-Bronson is good friends with Bollero and doesn’t mind being directed by a friend.

Boeing, Boeing

Senior theater major Travis Moscinski is directing Marc Camoletti’s “Boeing, Boeing,” which tells the story of an architect who is juggling three fiancées, all of whom happen to be flight attendants. Moscinski feels the fact that he is an actor first and a director second is both a bane and boon to him.

“I’m afraid sometimes that I may act it out for the actors how I would be acting the part, which isn’t what a director should do,” Moscinski said. “At the same time, I get ideas for my directing by putting myself in the show and trying to think of things that I would do if I were the actor.”

Moscinski said he wants people to enjoy themselves rather than have to think about the content of the play.

“I hope people can walk away thinking to themselves, ‘Wow, that was fun,'” he said. “I want people to have a fun time without being bogged down with too much thinking. Sometimes you can have a good time watching a show and not analyze your life or walk away with a deeper meaning.”

While all the one-act plays deal with various issues, Moscinski thinks the common theme running through all of them is relationships.

“‘Boston Marriage’ has a lesbian couple who is dealing with troubled times. ‘The Glass Menagerie’ is about a girl whose family is trying to get her to have a relationship with someone since she’s basically an outsider and ‘Boeing, Boeing’ is about a man who cannot decide on one girl so instead he is engaged to three at one time.”

The Glass Menagerie

Tennessee Williams’ “The Glass Menagerie,” directed by senior formal communications major Becky Doster, tells the story of Laura, a cripple who meets the suitor of her dreams, only to find out a heartbreaking truth. Doster feels directing is a collaborative effort and doesn’t hesitate to get another person’s opinion.

“I want everyone’s input on everything: Actors, technicians, faculty, other students, anybody at all,” she said. “If you wander by one of my rehearsals, I’ll probably stop and ask you what you think. I won’t use every idea that’s thrown out there, but I appreciate it anyways.”

Coming Attractions

Rodgers and Hammerstein’s “Cinderella”

Feb. 17-21, 2009, 7:30 p.m.

Feb. 21, 2009, 1:00 p.m.

Cabaret 2009
March 13, 2009
No time listed
Don H. Bottum University Center

One Act Plays
April 1-4, 2009, 7:30 p.m.
Black Box Theater

William Shakespeare’s “The Tempest”
April 21-25, 2009, 7:30 p.m.
April 25, 2009, 1:00 p.m.