The UIndy Underground Series provides new capstone experience for theatre majors

The University of Indianapolis Theatre Department created a new form of senior capstone projects called The UIndy Underground series, according to Assistant Professor of Theatre and Director of Theatre Education James Leagre. The projects seek to provide seniors an outlet to display what they have learned and use it in a professional environment, according to Leagre.

“The idea of the pieces that they’re doing represent either areas that they’re interested in, areas that they really want to explore or areas that kind of fulfill [the idea of] ‘Here’s everything that I have gained [and] what I’ve learned here,’” Leagre said.

This year the series consists of three plays all directed by seniors in the department. They are titled “Danny and the Deep Blue Sea” directed by senior theatre major Destiny Heugel, “Vagina Monologues” directed by senior theatre major Zoe Cunningham and “Shot in the Dark” directed by senior theatre major Charles Jones.

Heugel said that when the department started the new capstone and they called it the “student experience series.” According to Heugel, this is the first year that the productions were publicized. Last year they were available to the public but not advertised to the extent that UIndy Underground is.

Photo by Brett Pinna Actors Kyle Jeanor and Katie Carter play the two main characters Danny and Roberta in the play “Danny and the Deep Blue Sea” that was performed in the Studio Theatre of Esch Hall on Oct. 31. Danny cries in Roberta’s lap because he realizes he doesn’t have anyone.

The student directors started developing the plays their junior year in a class called junior seminar, according to Leagre. He said in the class, professors help students plan ahead on what they want to do in their senior capstone projects. The directors start production on the plays during their senior year, according to Leagre. Professors tailor project requirements and restrictions to the director’s theatre concentration, Leagre said.

“[For example] Theatre education majors are required [for] their capstone to direct a play, to mimic the most similar thing that they’re going to deal with walking into a school as a high school theater teacher. The only resources that they can use are the incoming freshmen,” Leagre said. “They can’t use upperclassmen for design. They can’t because that mimics the closest to what they’re going to experience into a high school.”

The process can be eye opening for many of the directors because it provides a different level of understanding of what it takes to be a professional in theatre, Leagre said. The directors are involved with every step of the production, according to Heugel.

“First, you have to find a script that you like and then you have to propose it to the faculty as why you think you should do it,” Huegel said. “And then you have to get the rights to it, and then you have to cast it, and then you hold rehearsals and then while you’re holding rehearsals, you’re building the set and designing the set and designing the lights and queuing all of that in. So it’s everything all at once, but I’ve learned a lot and it’s been terrifying and there are so many things I didn’t know how to do before, that I know how to do now. But I’m proud of all of it, but it’s been very hectic.”

Photo by Tony Reeves Senior communication major Roci Contreras plays many characters in her performance in “The Vagina Monologues,” She played a lawyer who turns into a sex worker. The play consisted of adult themes and showed Nov. 8 and 9 in the Studio Theatre, the basement

While the capstones acts as a culmination of all the work the directors have put in as a student at the university, it also works as a way for the seniors to understand how everything works together in a professional environment, Leagre said. 

“The biggest benefit is literally the accomplishment of the whole, of the production,” Leagre said. “So having an understanding of how everything goes together, not just the pieces but everything that’s around it, while at the same time being able to utilize the skill sets that they’ve learned with directing and the show itself.”