Every year, upperclassmen theatre majors are hand-picked by theatre professors to direct their own plays. While student directed productions vary from year to year, the process of picking student directors remains the same. Students submit three plays and a paragraph about why they want to direct, then go through an interview process. Professors select students to direct and also pick the plays that will be featured, based on students’ preferences and interviews. Professors pick plays with similar themes. This year’s set of plays are centered around controversy and common problems. The plays opened April 12-14, and will again run in full from April 25-27. Because of intense themes of suicide, bullying and abortion, no one under the age of 18 will be allowed in the theater without a parent or guardian.
Evan Wills, the play’s main character, is a high school student struggling with depression and frequent bullying. Evan is obsessed with birds and has a crush on a girl named Jenny. When his bullies find out about these things, they ridicule him. Senior theater major and director Kelly Casey said “Rare Birds” was not a part of her original submissions. She only showed the professors “Rare Birds” after they asked if she had considered directing anything else. While the play takes on a more serious tone, Casey said she wanted to create a fun environment for all six of her actors.
“My No. 1 goal is to make sure that everyone has a happy and successful rehearsal,” Casey said. “I want the space to be fun and energetic even though… there are parts in this play that are not happy and sad and stuff. It needs to feel like a safe environment for my actors. And I think personally for me, I like creating that space.”
“Sibs” is a play about two siblings reliving the moments before their father’s death. Junior theater major and director Emma Rund said she chose the play after she performed it in high school on her speech team with her brother. While her play is not as controversial as the others, she said, it is centered around family problems that most people can relate to.
“I think what’s interesting about my show versus the other ones is that they cover more like stereotypical controversies, where mine is more of family controversies,” Rund said. “I don’t think it’s talked about a lot that families don’t seem controversial, but they really are, because something that’s a major theme of my play is feeling so alone in a family that you’re supposed to be close to. And I think that’s something everyone could connect to whether it be like they’re an adopted family, they’re blood family, they’re a found family, everyone has a family and everyone has gone through these distances. And realizing, that at the end of the day, family is all we really have.”
Rund said while she hopes people enjoy the show, she wants the audience to experience the events vividly.
“I hope the audience leaves my show feeling the need to call one of their loved ones and say that they are heard and that they are there for them, even if they haven’t been there for them this whole time,” Rund said. “So I just want them to leave feeling that they need to keep their family close to them.”
“Dry Land” is a play about friendship, resilience and abortion, according to junior theatre major and director Destiny Huegel. The play is centered around two girls in an empty locker room, confused, performing an unsafe abortion. Huegel said she wanted to direct a play that will elicit a reaction from the audience and make them feel as if they are experiencing something vivid.
“There’s a lot of people that will come see this play,” Huegel said. “Any man, just because they’re a man will never have to experience this. So, it’s putting people in the situation. When they do have a conversation about it later, they’ve had some sort of actual experience with it…. It’s not like a preachy play or a political play, it just happens.”
Huegel said she hopes to make the audience uncomfortable so that they will start the conversation about unsafe abortions.
“It’s still an uncomfortable thing to talk about it, so it’s going to be uncomfortable. But that’s kind of the goal is to show them that this is a regular thing that happens and has to happen unsafely, way too often,” Huegel said. “And that’s kind of the goal, is to make them uncomfortable and for them to be able to leave and think about it and, hopefully think about how we can change a little bit.”