Jamie Kuntz, A&E Editor
Friends of the senior drama majors may have noticed their conspicuous absence on the social scene this semester. Rumors have abounded regarding their disappearance – have they transferred en masse to a different school? Been abducted by aliens? Run away to Europe to create a traveling theatre troupe?
Surprisingly, they’re still on campus, but have been busy with the project that will define their senior year: directing their own productions.
Erin Kleiber, Paul Fojut, Caeli Austin and Helen Furton, the seniors who are putting on their shows this semester, have been working on their studios for the better part of a year. Though the directors all picked shows based on their own personal interests, all the studios have the overarching theme of identity, which adds an entirely unexpected cohesion.
“As undergraduates pursuing a higher education while simultaneously attempting to find their place in the world, we found the theme of identity linking and guiding our production,” the directors wrote in a letter that will appear in their programs. “Over the past three months, we have intensely addressed the idea of identity in our productions and in our own lives.”
Furton, directing “No Exit,” by Jean-Paul Sartre, stayed an extra semester in order to put on her studio and become an English and drama double major. She described her show as a French existentialist and absurdist drama, and said that it takes place in hell, which turns out to be simply a living room.
“It’s dark and funny, and we have some beautiful young actors who are doing a fabulous job,” said Furton. “I think ‘No Exit’ has a lot of big ideas and is totally influenced by existential philosophy, and anyone interested in those ideas will find the play very interesting.”
Austin is directing Jean Cocteau’s “The Eagle with Two Heads,” which is based on the assassination of the Empress Elizabeth of Austria and the mysterious drowning of Ludwig II. She said that she was not even halfway done with it before she knew that she loved it.
“One of the ways in which this show … relates to my life as a student today and could possibly relate to others’ is that it’s all about growing up and losing your illusions,” said Austin.
“At this point in our lives we’re all in a comfortable space, the [University of Dallas] Bubble – we’re essentially secluded from the real world and we can have all of our dreams and ideals and academic platitudes. But growing up deals with substantiating those beliefs by carrying out those actions. [It] deals with what the price of illusion is – what’s going to happen when you tear them down?”
Kleiber is taking on August Strindberg’s “Miss Julie,” which Kleiber said is about a woman who can’t deal with the consequences of not getting what she wants.
“I picked ‘Miss Julie’ partly because I found a modern adaptation of it, and when I presented it to my professor he said, ‘Why don’t you do the original?’” Kleiber said, “It’s a bit sexier and grittier and dirtier than things we see at this university, and I think that by embracing things that aren’t quite as perfect and beautiful as we would like them to be, we get to explore things we don’t normally get a chance to.”
Fojut is directing “Virtual Reality” by Alan Arkin. He said he picked it because he fell in love with the language, which he described as “incredibly fast-paced and fantastic.”
“Nick Catanese and Matt Pierick are genius,” Fojut said of his two actors. “It’s the fact that they enjoy the material and working together – they find each other funny. There have been a lot of times when we have had to pause rehearsal and just breathe because one of them can’t stop laughing. That energy is just the life of the show.”
“Miss Julie” and “Virtual Reality” open Dec. 5 at 8 p.m., and play again Dec. 7 at 8 p.m. and Dec. 8 at 2 p.m. “The Eagle with Two Heads” and “No Exit” open Dec. 6 at 8 p.m., with additional performances Dec. 7 at 2 p.m. and Dec. 8 at 8 p.m.