For the first time, Northeastern’s Department of Theatre will host a festival of 10-minute plays, showcasing the talent of student actors and directors. Taking place on Saturday, Dec. 3 at the Ryder Theatre Lab, “Dancing with Ghosts and Other Acts of Love and Absurdity,” will serve as the final exam for students in Directing for the Stage, a theatre course which introduces majors to the advanced concept and skill of directing stage shows.
Scott Edmiston, chair of the theatre department, teaches the class and elected to introduce this method as the final to the course. He said theatre is an art of practice and experience, making a showcase of performances much more logical than a traditional final exam or project.
“Directing, like a lot of theatre, you have to just do it,” Edmiston said. “You have to have the experience of it. There’s a certain point where the director just has to sit in a room with an actor and figure out how to talk to them and how to interpret a text. At one point, I just had to kind of push the bird out of the nest and say ‘pick a play, pick a cast, get a room and start working.’”
Edmiston and his students selected the theme after choosing the pieces that would be performed.
“After everybody picked the 10-minute play that they wanted to direct, we started to look at common themes and ideas that were weaving through the various plays,” Edmiston said. “We found that there were ghosts, sometimes literally and sometimes metaphorically.”
Students in the directing class had less than a month to choose a play to produce, cast and rehearse before the showcase. The plays cover a wide variety of topics, from sex and relationships to the ramifications of historical events.
“We are under severe time constrictions, and it’s been a trip,” said Bella Tasha, a senior theatre major.
After selecting a play, the student directors found themselves in need of actors but lacking the traditional audition period that often accompanies other theatrical productions. Senior theatre major Barbara Edmonds acknowledged the difficulties of casting within such time constraints.
“Casting was kind of a guerilla tactic-type situation,” Edmonds said. “In my case, the casting didn’t go particularly well. It was originally supposed to be two people, but I lost an actor right before Thanksgiving break and couldn’t find one. I have thus reworked my interpretation of the play.”
Tasha agreed that casting was a challenging endeavor. Without traditional methods at their disposal, some directors were left lacking casting options.
“I literally accosted somebody, like, on Centennial,” Tasha said. “I was like, ‘Hey, do you wanna do this?’”
Despite obstacles along the way, the student directors remain optimistic about the outcome of the showcase and are looking forward to seeing the results of their peers’ efforts and dedication.
“I’m hoping that my students will have an opportunity to taste the kind of extraordinary experience of the creative process,” Edmiston said. “The performance, I hope, will reflect that.”
Photo by Alex Melagrano