Festival highlights directorial talents

Charlotte Kyle
Features Editor

Actors may get the focus on stage, but this weekend’s festival in Actors Studio Theatre is all about the director.

The Directing 2 class will host Crazy Alone, an event which features four one-act plays directed by students.

Ashlan Stephenson, senior from Salem, Ill., said the class has been working since before the semester began to prepare for this event. The event is their final presentation of what they have learned and accomplished in the course.

Stephenson said students read plays during the summer to help narrow down what piece they would like to direct. Next came the research phase, which included looking at the time period, costumes, jobs, economics and circumstances surrounding the piece.

Casting occurred as a group, a process Stephenson described as difficult.

“Casting is one of the most difficult parts, in my opinion, because we have all of these students who come and they have individual talents and they’re all wonderful so you have to narrow it down to what your play needs,” she said.

Stephenson’s play is “The Birthday Knife,” a serial comedic play starring Rachel Sweeney, senior from Evansville, Ind., in the lead female role. She said she loves working with Sweeney because of her great ideas.

“She keeps the creative juices flowing,” she said.

Sweeney attributed their friendship to one reason the pair work well together.

“It helps that we’re really close friends and we’ve essentially grown up here at Murray State together,” she said. “I think the Directing 2 class and festival as a whole is a great opportunity because you’re being cast by your peers and you’re working with your peers. When you get out in the real world sometimes that’s how it happens – you’re cast by people who may be only a couple of years older than you.”

Once the cast was decided the directors and actors began rehearsing, a process which lasted from late September to now. Stephenson said the work they put into the plays has paid off.

“The most rewarding thing is seeing your actors up there doing what you envisioned when you first read the play and seeing where it has transformed because they have their creative ability and their notions and seeing how wonderfully it comes together,” she said.

Because this is the final presentation, Stephenson said it is different than turning in a paper or taking a test.

“It’s nerve-wracking because we’re opening this up to the community, to the university,” she said. “This is our baby that we’ve been working on since August so it’s nerve-wracking but it’s also an exciting time because it’s like, ‘This is what I can do and I’m proud of it.’”

Stephenson said the four plays are very different genres, so audience members should expect a little of everything.

“Come expecting to get four different feelings,” she said. “An array of emotions.”

Sweeney added that it’s important for students to remember that this festival is a student-run production, where sets are minimal and imagination is required. She said she hopes people who attend will recognize the talents of the individual directors.

“I think a lot of people forget that the directors work so hard,” she said. “It takes a special person to be a director and to be a good one at that. They don’t get any congratulations at the end because the audience sees the actors … but it’s the people who direct it behind the scenes that really do the majority of the work. We’re just up there embodying what their vision is. As long as people come and see the show and enjoy it then I know that I’ve done my job because I put Ashlan’s visions in a performance which, for me, is probably one of the most rewarding things.”

The featured plays and directors are: “Amicable Parting” directed by Jordan Belcher; “The Still Alarm” directed by C.J. Houston; “Dedication” directed by Paige Taylor; “The Birthday Knife” directed by Stephenson.

Crazy Alone is at 7:30 p.m. Saturday and 2:30 p.m. Sunday in Actors Studio Theatre, located in Wilson Hall 310B. Admission is $3 and seating is limited. The box office will open an hour prior to the event.

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