By Paulina Herran
The first week end of December will bring excitement to the University of Dallas community as crowds make their way over to the Margaret Jonsson Theater to watch the first batch of the drama department’s senior studios. The senior studios display the work of the drama majors as directors of their own productions. Four of this year’s drama seniors are directing plays this semester, and the other five will open their productions in the spring. The fall semester’s featured plays include “Sotoba Kamachi” by Yukio Mishima, directed by Annie Zwerneman; “Polaroid Stories” by Naomi Iizuka, directed by Catie McLain; “God” by Woody Allen, directed by Aidan Malone; and “The Truth About the Truth” by Benn W. Levy, directed by Joseph Dodd.
“You get to pick any play that you want that’s one act and can be performed in an hour,” Zwerneman said.
With such flexible requirements, each play is quite distinct, reflecting the individuality of each director and his or her unique goals. Zwerneman’s play,“Sotoba Komachi,” is a modern Japanese Noh play with a serious theme.
“Essentially it’s a tragic, enchanting love story in which this 99-year-old ugly woman walks into a park filled with lovers and this poet confronts her, and he’s really idealistic and romantic and he has an idealized view of the lovers, and he tells her that she can’t be there,” Zwerneman said. “So there’s that conflict that opens up the play. Then throughout the rest of the play, she tells him about how she used to be young and beautiful and that he’s looking at life the wrong way. She shows him how the lovers are like corpses; they’re not even living life. It’s a story about narcissism and death and how they walk together.”
Zwerneman expressed the feeling of liberty she experienced in selecting the setting for the play. She explained that Mishima took his own liberties in making “a violent transition” from the traditional Noh play. Therefore, Zwerneman set her play in a park in New York City at twilight, expressing the romantic and dream-like atmosphere of the lovers in the park. The stark contrast between the beauty of the park and the old woman parallels how the two perspectives of Kamachi and the poet collide, a collision that causes the poet to change his perspective.
“As a human, everybody has that one thing they hold on tight to, no matter if it’s gone or not,” Zwerneman said. “There’s something about ourselves that we’re all addicted to, but it’s heartbreaking because we’re all blinded by this thing we’re all addicted to, whether it’s our athleticism, or our vanity. The show brings this to light.”
While Zwerneman explores a tragic theme in her play, Malone explained that he chose his play because of the humor.
“Before anything else, I want to make sure that people laugh at this,” he said. In choosing his play, Malone says he started with the comic and moved to the meaningful.
“I want comedy, I think it’s fascinating,” he said. “I was reading all these plays and this was the one that made me belly-laugh in the library. So I thought ‘okay, let’s start with this: let’s start with the funny.’ Which is sort of a reverse way to go about it, the drama department recommends that we begin with meaning first, but we started with the comical aspect and then found meaning to it later (sic). Before you come to the show, forget everything you thought you knew about comedy.”
Dodd’s chosen play, “The Truth About the Truth,” is also comical. “It is a witty intellectual comedy about a stubborn playwright, a sassy maid and an egocentric actress,” Dodd said. “Benn W. Levy has masterfully crafted a world where realities comically overlap. We see two versions of the same encounter over the course of the play, juxtaposing theater and reality. I think that it should spark a conversation about whether or not theater has a social function. I find that both entertaining and ‘UD.’”
McLain’s chosen production, “Polaroid Stories,” uniquely blends Ovids “Metamorphoses” into the modern day stories of addicts
“It explores masks that we put up,” McLain said. “Since these addicts live on the streets, they have to fend for themselves, so they have to give off the impression that they can take care of themselves. So it’s showing the distinction between who you are when you’re feeling threatened and who you are when you’re alone.”
McLain describes the play as a “memory play” in which memories overlap with reality, “an amorphous world that’s shaped by the people’s psyches in the world.” The play mirrors Ovid’s myths in interesting ways by depicting the lives of the addicts in snapshots. Since it is not set in a specific timeframe, McLain was able to introduce a lot of creativity during the production process by using music and dancing in special ways.
“I’ve always been very interested in myth and how there are stories that have been passed down that shape who we are as people and who we are as a community,” McLain said, explaining her inspiration for the play.
McLain says she thinks that the UD community could benefit from seeing “Polaroid Stories” because it shows that these people who may be stigmatized are not all that different from the rest of us.
“Addicts can easily be a stereotype, a caricature, but this play helps reveal them as fully-formed, complex human beings, which I think is really important to see,” McLain said. “This play shows addicts as sympathetic, and as not that different from other people.” Covering such a broad range of emotions and messages, the drama department’s senior studios promise to be rich in scope and creativity. With the help and guidance of drama professors Stefan Novinski and Susie Cox as well as affiliate technical director Will Turbyne, each production has taken an immense amount of work, which is bound to be reflected its performance.