Short Play Festival Thrusts Students into Director Roles

February 8, 2017

“Art isn’t good or bad, it is about what effect is has on you.” – Johnny Barden, ’17

As the second semester began at Niagara University, the juniors in the theatre department produced their annual showcase of 10-minute short plays.

Many may not know that NU students have the privilege to design, create and direct their own mini-plays, not to mention hold auditions for students interested in acting in them. The student-directors had four months to work on designing their own pieces, leading up to the performances Jan. 20-22 and 27-28.

Directing the festival performance is one component of THR 425, a specialized course offered predominantly to theatre performance majors. Through a structured curriculum, students learn the nuances of stage direction, including auditions, blocking, pace, rhythm, characterization, composition, picturization, movement, and general design.

With that knowledge as a guide, it’s then up to the student-directors to organize and establish times for rehearsals with their actors and stage managers in preparation for the real performance.

“At the beginning, it was similar to a puzzle or papier mache that would all come together. I was building a show one person at a time, slowly meshing each idea together into one,” said Barden. “It started to work and then grew! I felt like I would want to see this play done live, so I assumed the audience would like it as well.”

“There is a sense of relief (once the shows start),” said junior theatre major Carly Weldy. “We’re actors who are used to being in control of our actions, so then when you have done all the work and collaborated, you go into tech and performances, and then you know it is yours.”

The students have full control of their plays and how they would like the piece to be presented. Each junior had a topical message included in their play, ranging from drug addiction and alcohol to sexuality. Each director worked hard to achieve their goals and was driven to make their stories into a live performance.

“We selected the theme for our short play because a certain topic caught our attention,” noted Weldy. “It was intriguing to us. It was an issue we would like to be seen.”

Theatre major Kevin Trala emphasized the real-life aspect of the course.

“I was approached by someone who was interested in taking the course,” explained Trala. “He was so fascinated and loved the idea of directing. This class is good for a film director. Getting the experience and working on a stage would only help those who want to do film.”

Weldy added to that thought, correlating the key concepts to ones she’s picked up in her business classes.

“There’s so much organization and management involved,” she said. “Not only is it a development of that and being a part of a bigger picture, but it’s also a great opportunity to learn how to talk to people and get your ideas across to people, because that is something so often forgot about. You are learning how to be personable and communicate with others.”

To learn more about Niagara University’s theatre programs, please visit www.niagara.edu/theatre.

Article by Shelby Ehrenreich, a senior studying theatre performance, with minors in communication studies and dance.