Two student-directed plays will take the stage at the Centre for Drama, Theatre and Performance Studies from December 6 to 8, 2019. This year’s Directors’ Showcase will exhibit the directorial talents of fourth-year student, William Dao, the director of the play Eurydice, and fifth-year student, Abby Palmer, the director of the play Uncle Falling.
Although not physically present on stage, the directors are responsible for crafting the ethos of the production, including the staging, appearance, and tone of the play to reflect a creative vision. The CDTPS gives its students the opportunity to partake in this unique experience through the Directors’ Showcase when upper-year undergraduate drama students design and direct a play of their choice. The first show in the Directors’ Showcase is “Uncle Falling” a poem, from “Float,” written by Anne Carson and adapted as a play.
“Uncle Falling is about two lecturers with a chorus of four Gertrude Steins,” describes director, Abby. “The two lecturers talk about Uncle Harry and their father, but it is more broadly about community and how we can all show up for each other and see each other wholly, understanding how people process and understand illness and how people suffer.”
Conveying meaning through dialogue, movement, or design alone is no easy task, but directors use all of these aspects and more to guide and communicate meaning to both their actors and the audience. Directors face two sets of challenges: ensuring that the meaning of the production is engaging to the audience, and that the actors internalize and convey the story the director has envisioned.
“I’m excited to convey something meaningful to everyone who watches Uncle Falling because it is poetry,” says Abby. “It’s not scenes between people, but rather focused on monologues. I just want people to feel like this story is relatable to their lives.”
Having some background in acting, Abby can empathize with the experiences of her actors who are learning her material. “The greatest challenge I faced was getting everyone on the same page with the poetry – making sure everyone understood their characters and what the poetry is saying, but also that they are the characters saying this poetry.” Abby explains that as a director, you have to see and think of everything and be good at organizing people’s feelings and empathizing.
As a double major in English and Theatre Studies, Abby was inspired to incorporate both of her areas of interest into Uncle Falling. “I wouldn’t have met Elizabeth Harvey, my English Professor, who introduced me to Anne Carson if I wasn’t an English major.”
The second show in the Directors’ Showcase is Eurydice an adaptation of the Greek Myth of Orpheus written by Sarah Rural. Rather than following Orpheus through his journey and internal monologue, the play focuses on the perspective of Eurydice. The audience follows her journey after she falls to her death on her wedding day and we see her experience the underworld, where she reunites with her father and longs for Orpheus, her lover. “The play reminds us of the boundlessness of love, while also teaching us the virtue of letting go,” says director, Will.
As for the look and design of the play, Will has consistently been inspired by the work of Wes Anderson. “His work is very controlled and meticulous, and his color pallet is so specific; it’s all very pretty, and pastels are often used,” describes Will. “There are always these little moments of delight that are thrown into his movies and I found that for Eurydice there is something similar where a lot of the play surprises you.”
Will feels it is necessary for directors to find a personal connection to whatever project or play they’re working on. Will was drawn to directing Eurydice because of a personal connection he felt between the play and his own life.
“Daoism is what I practiced with my family growing up, so working through the play I thought a lot about the idea of Daoism, which is why I wanted to do Eurydice and dive further into what it means to learn about yourself,” says Will. “In Eurydice I’m drawn to the idea of Daoism — this idea of life and death being the same thing in the same space — maybe we’re all in the same space, and that was initially the concept for the play Eurydice.”
Although Will and Abby’s productions differ in narrative style and genre, as directors, they both share a similar goal: capturing the audience’s attention with an engaging and thought-provoking production. Directors live behind the stage, but by guiding set and sound design and the performances of their actors, they channel their creative vision to the audience – although they are not seen, their voices are heard.
To learn more about these two productions and to reserve your free tickets, visit the Directors’ Showcase on the CDTPS website.