Capstone projects: Senior Studio

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Like every major at UD, the drama program concludes with a final senior project known as a “Senior Studio,” where intellectual and creative boundaries are pushed to cast, direct and execute a play.

During the fall semester of their junior year, drama majors carefully curate a list of ten one-act plays they would like to put on. The list goes through Associate Professors Kyle Lemieux and Stefan Novinski, who decide with the student what the final decision will be. Then, during their spring semester, they develop the production concept.

This semester, two seniors are taking up the challenge and reflecting on their own journeys throughout their time at UD.

Senior Lynley Glickler is directing an original play titled “Monstrous Birth,” which follows the women in Mary Shelley’s “Frankenstein.”

“For me, I knew I wanted to do my own play after Professor Novinski asked me what my top choice was and I realized I was afraid to admit how much I loved ‘Monstrous Birth.’ I’d written it the spring before [returning] from the Rome semester, right when the pandemic was starting to die down. The pandemic was a difficult time for a lot of people, and everyone had to deal with it in their own way. Writing ‘Monstrous Birth’ was a way for me to deal with that anger and loss I felt without having to write explicitly about myself,” Glickler said.

While Glickler only started writing the play over a year ago, she said that the seeds were planted when she was 12 years old in a production called “The Secret Origins of Dr. Frankenstein.” When she revisited the story during the pandemic — and remembered the emotional toll it took on her at that point — she knew that she had to devote extensive time to the project.

“I took issue with a lot in the script, but the worst offense, in my opinion, was the change of Victor Frankenstein, a self-pitying college dropout obsessed with his experiment who never took any responsibility for his actions, into an awkward loving family man who just wanted to bring his dead mother back to life!”

“[A]s soon as I came back I sat down and wrote out the entire play in a month and a half. At that time, the script was still sympathetic to Frankenstein, and took a more ambiguous approach to his antagonistic role. That was the script I submitted to my professors, and that was the script they chose to be my Senior Studio project,” Glickler said.

Senior Jack Urbanski opted to do a production of “Pariah” by August Strindberg and said: “When reading it for the first time, I enjoyed the central debate of the two characters and philosophical themes of the play. Perhaps that’s a very UD reason for me to pick a play, but I’m sure there will be an audience for it here.”

Both Glickler and Urbanski shared that their Core classes were instrumental in helping them prepare for this project, especially noting English and philosophy classes.

“The English and philosophy Core classes are especially instrumental in directing a play. One must truly dissect a text backwards and forwards even before giving it to the actors in order to create a meaningful work on stage,” Urbanski said.

“Certainly philosophy has helped! I was taking Phil of Being at the time of rewriting it, and some Plato may have found its way into the text,” Glickler said.

At this point in the semester, both productions are currently in rehearsals and fine-tuning the comprehensive production.

“My favorite part of the process has probably been doing character work with the actors: combing through the spoken and unspoken facts in the script about each character, and extrapolating further the circumstances of their lives so that the actors can seem like true human beings on stage. We have extra work to do with this play, because the characters are shrouded in secrecy and aren’t even given proper names. It’s a fascinating mystery to unravel,” Urbanski said.

“We have an amazing rehearsal room, have a lot of fun, and still get a lot of good work done. [My l]east favorite part has been trying to figure out the set, although I’m very lucky to have veteran drama major David Huner as my set designer,” Glickler said.

Glickler also pointed out the way that UD emphasizes learning how to master something by doing it, such as writing a short story in Lit Trad IV to be able to better understand the short stories and novels that you encounter in the class.

Similarly, it’s important for drama majors to understand the pith of putting on a production by getting their hands dirty and diving into it themselves.

This semester’s senior studio performances will run from Dec. 1-2 at 8 p.m. in the Drama Building, along with a Matinee performance on Dec. 3.

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