If, on a given Wednesday at noon, you discover a group of students reciting Shakespeare with great verve in your dormitory lounge, congratulations – you have found Directing Lab. Directing Lab has been a part of the drama department curriculum since its establishment. Its original purpose was for senior drama majors to experience directing prior to their spring senior studio, but the class also provides low-pressure acting experience for the other students who take it.
Directing Lab condenses theatre by rehearsing individual scenes, making it an appealing course for anyone to take. Drama professor Stefan Novinski, who teaches the class, says not only undergraduate students, but also graduate students and seminarians, have taken it. Currently, the class has 50 people.
“Only a very small fraction of them [are drama majors],” Novinski said.
Every week, the students are divided into groups, each with a different directing senior. The senior then chooses the scene and casts the students.
“Because the students by and large pick the great scenes from dramatic literature and we don’t repeat a scene over three years, the breadth of their experience with the history of dramatic literature is amazing,” Novinksi said. “A student can act in a Shakespeare, a Greek, a Tennessee Williams and a contemporary play. It’s critical that we have the lab component and that we have the actors. They, [the directors,] can learn how to work with actors, and the proper technique to help them achieve a riveting performance … I don’t see any other way to do it — if you’re going to direct, you have to work with actors … the actors are the building blocks of the play.”
Sophomore drama major, Hope Gniewek, said Directing Lab allowed her to practice the balance of acting.
“It gives me … a chance to be directed, to learn how to take direction and instruction well, and at the same time know when to follow impulse,” Gniewek said.
The class also gives actors the opportunity to work with different directors, as sophomore Betsy Karako, who took Directing Lab last year, said.
“It was interesting seeing the different directors’ perspectives and how they directed,” Karako said.
Drama major, Ellen Rogers, cited the class’s many other benefits.
“It’s a really exciting opportunity for growth … you have to learn that director’s vocabulary,” Rogers said. “Getting to work with as many different directors is exciting, sometimes challenging. You learn something new from everyone.”
When asked if there was anything she disliked about Directing Lab, Rogers only said that she wished it were offered both semesters.
“I wish we could do it all the time,” Rogers said.
Yet, those who missed registering this fall can still enjoy watching the scenes in the class’s open performances. While you’ll have to consult a drama major for a full schedule, the next round of performances, all scenes from “Macbeth,” will take place Oct. 28, and viewers can meet at the drama building at noon.
So, if you feel compelled to recite Plautine verse next fall, give Directing Lab a try before stifling the impulse.