Senior drama majors brave long-distance challenges

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2019 senior studio performance of "Dogg's Hamlet." Photo courtesy of Dolores Mihaliak.

This semester, three senior drama majors, Katrine Christensen, Anna Nguyen and Paul Bond, planned to present their capstone Senior Studio,  projects to the University of Dallas community.

The capstone project starts during junior year for drama majors. They take Theater History I where they read a number of one-act plays and select one to put on with the approval of the department. In Theater Literature II, they delve into all aspects of their one-act play and complete a thesis on the project. 

Before putting on the play, drama majors take Basic Staging and Directing, two classes designed to help them with the process. They then spend an entire semester of senior year casting, choosing sets and costumes and directing rehearsals. 

Since remote classes and stay at home orders began, two seniors, their actors and their production team have been holding rehearsals over Zoom. 

Bond opted out of holding an online performance of his studio, “The North Pool” by Rajiv Joseph. 

“It’s hard to say why I opted out of having a performance,” said Bond. “I guess I’m holding out hope that in the future I’ll be able to direct this play according to my original vision, and that hope is outweighing my inclination to adopt my vision and perform it in such a different and more limited medium.”

Though this is not without its challenges, the plays are going along very well for Nguyen and Christensen. 

“Theater rehearsal is so much about being in the same room together and working off of each other’s presence and the bond that forms from sweating together,” Nguyen said. “I think it helped a lot that we had been working and building this piece together for the majority of the semester.” 

“The first Zoom rehearsal we were back in the dark fumbling around for the lightswitch,” Nguyen continued. “But slowly we discovered what was best, and my actors through the words of the play rediscovered their characters, and I knew we were going to be just fine.”

However, the move to the internet is not without disappointments for the seniors who have spent two years working on their one-acts. 

“It’s been difficult learning how to convey direction over Zoom, not being able to get into the space with the actors or even use my hands nearly as much to make my point,” Christensen said. 

However, she also highlighted positive aspects of the challenging experience. 

“I couldn’t have done any of this without my team,” said Christensen. “It’s honestly been inspiring to see how willing my designers and actors were to continue in this project with me.”

Senior drama major Dolores Mihaliak had the chance to put on her studio during the fall semester.

“It was so life-changing to see my studio in front of an audience,” Mihaliak said. “One of the marvelous things about theater is not only getting to watch the play but seeing fellow theater-goers in the space see your play for the first time.” 

Expressing dismay for her fellow seniors, Mihaliak continued, “One of the most heartbreaking things about the lack of a performance element for these seniors is the fact that they won’t be able to watch other people see their play because it is a really transformative experience and the satisfaction of working on something for a year and a half to two years and then being able to see it make other people happy or touch other people is a beautiful thing.”

Additionally, Mihaliak said, “I feel really bad for all the arts students at UD for not getting their final presentation.” 

The directors will be recording their plays to be shown virtually on the weekend of May 1, available to view on Saturday and Sunday at 10 p.m. Free tickets can be obtained at udallas.edu/drama. The tickets will provide a link to the recordings for that weekend. 

On Sunday, May 3, Nguyen and Christensen will be hosting virtual talkbacks with their cast and design crew to take questions about their plays, the original vision and the move to online performances. Nguyen’s will be at 3 p.m. and Christensen’s will take place at 4 p.m. 

Go see “Here is Monster,” written by Brock Norman Brock and directed by Anna Nguyen, and “The Typists,” written by Murray Schisgal and directed by Katrine Christensen!

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