Even in the midst of finals, projects and graduation plans, the four Senior Studio productions are worth whatever minimal free time you might have. Katarina Morris, Katherine Weber, Hope Gniewek and Nicholas Moore have been hard at work putting the finishing touches on their respective one-act productions, and the final product is sure to be a night of artistic brilliance and enjoyment for all.
Over the course of the semester, the four directors have faced their own challenges, surprises and dynamics that have shaped each of their pieces.
“I don’t think I expected to struggle as much as I did to get my show in the right place,” Weber said about her satirical show, “Overtones.” “It felt like I couldn’t figure it out, and that was frustrating. Thankfully, I was able to step back and see that we had not spent all of our time working in vain. We made important discoveries about the play and the characters in it, which brought us to where we are today.”
For her show “Scott and Hem,” Morris notes that she is “working with two massive personalities onstage, and they’re extremely well-known to boot.”
“Fitzgerald and Hemingway themselves have evolved the most,” Morris said. “That image, the uncovering of who they are, according to me and to themselves in the play, has certainly changed the most as I’ve worked with the actors to figure these men out. I’ve also learned to embrace the glamour of their setting. They are in 1930s Hollywood, and hearing the music and seeing images from that period has also changed my view of their world and how they interact with it. There’s an element of spectacle I’ve learned to love in their lives.”
Moore has been “amazed by how much my understanding of the show has changed.”
“You research, you analyze, you do all this work before rehearsals begin, all of which is important,” Moore said. “But then you start rehearsing and you put the script in an actor’s hand, and all of a sudden you start seeing how all the pieces connect. All of a sudden these characters become real humans, and you have to grapple with how to present their story honestly. I’m so lucky to work with actors as talented as Jackson and Robert, because they breathe such a vibrant sense of inner life into their characters.”
“We did a run of the show in rehearsal where Jackson and Robert used thick Czech accents the whole time,” Moore added. “Which ended up dissolving into a vaguely Russian accent and a lot of laughter. It was fun, but also surprisingly revealing — there’s something matter-of-fact and resigned about the way these characters talk about the problems in their lives that makes more sense when you throw an Eastern European accent on top.”
Gniewek says that what surprised her most about her “first full-fledged directorial project,” “The Patient” by Agatha Christie, was “the amount of ingenuity and energy brought to the project by both my designers and my cast.”
“I had originally painted my vision for the play in broad strokes via my mise en scène board, based on Agatha Christie’s text and my chosen setting of film noir,” Gniewek said. “As rehearsals rolled by, we pushed the limits of heightened drama for maximum comic effect. We eventually found ourselves in a spoof of film noir, i.e. ‘Guy Noir.’”
Regarding her cast, Morris says that while she’s “working with two massive personalities onstage” of Fitzgerald and Hemingway, she’s also “working with some of the best actors on campus, and it is a pleasure to be in the room with them.”
Weber is also thankful for her “wonderful” cast, which is “funny and full of life.”
“My stage management team has also helped me so much along the way,” Weber said. “We’d get onto funny tangents, like coming up with hashtags for the show — #classicharriet and #sufficientlybuttered were two of them.”.
Speaking about what she hopes her audience will get from their shows, Morris draws out the theme in “Scott and Hem” of American Literature and our own perception of the topic.
“I hope people leave the show sympathizing with these men and the difficulties they had in their lives, because great art is not easy,” Morris said. “It’s not easily explained or understood, but for those that can accomplish it, we as humans owe them a debt of gratitude for essentially offering the inner workings of their souls up for public scrutiny. If there is anything I’ve learned about great art and literature at UD, it is that we are attracted to the good, but I’ve also learned that for artists, they have to accept the bad in their lives in order to elevate the good and that often comes at a cost.”
Moore wants the audience “to laugh,” but also hopes that “they can put themselves into the shoes of these characters and think about the choices they would make in their place.”
Weber also hopes that people “will laugh and find it funny,” but not only that.
“[I want the audience to] see the truth this show is offering, to see how often they put on a facade, pretend they’re fine when they’re not, try to put themselves above others, and sometimes relish in others’ demise,” Weber said. “That might mean that some of the laughter is uncomfortable laughter, but that doesn’t bother me. I have no doubt that people will see my show and recognize a part of themselves or someone else they know.”
“They say in the Drama Department that a drama major’s Senior Studio is a window into their soul, so some people may not like what they learn about me or what I’m trying to say,” Weber added. “That’s fine with me. I’m not everyone’s cup of tea, and the same may be true of this show. Even so, I would ask people to come to our shows with an open mind and an open heart and see what we have to offer. I think each of us have something important to say about human nature, as cliché as that may sound.”
“What an artist is expressing in their work and what the onlooker experiences are often different. I just hope the audience members remain open and let themselves react to what’s before them,” Gniewek said. “Each Senior Studio is a visual, auditory, emotional and mental treat. Don’t miss a single one.”
“The shows are separated to different nights this year. Make sure to go see all four of the studios,” Morris urged.