Spring is finally in the air at Colgate, and there is no better way to celebrate than by checking out the annual Spring Festival of plays. The programs consist of one-act pieces which are directed by Colgate’s advanced directing class and acted by the “Performance II” class and other recruits, with costumes designed by students in the costume design class, sets designed by the advanced scenic design class and built by the stagecraft class and lights designed by student volunteers. Spring Festival is special because it integrates students from all the different areas of theatrical production into these one-acts.
There are two different programs. Program A will include Stay Carl Stay, directed by Caitlin Boyle, Springtime, directed by Erin Sutton and Stonewater Rapture, directed by Elizabeth O’Leary. Program B consists of Bobby Gould in Hell, directed by Adam Samtur, The Death of One Good Dog, directed by Brandon McKenzie and The Author’s Voice, directed by Stephanie Wortel. Program A debuted at 8:00 p.m last night, and will play again at the same time tonight. Program B will show tomorrow at 8:00 p.m. and Sunday at 1:00 p.m. Both programs will take place in Brehmer Theater.
In the past, the directors have used student-written scripts in the Spring Festival, but this year they decided to use published scripts of the directors’ choice.
“All of the plays have something to say,” Christian A. Johnson Artist-in-Residence and Visiting Assistant Professor of English in the University Theater Chris O’Connor said, who teaches advanced directing and is overseeing the entire Spring Festival project. “They are really quite wonderful and thought-provoking. I hope the audience is challenged by them – I know my students have been.”
The first step of choosing a play to direct for this event was not as easy a task as it might seem.
“Each director has an emotional connection to the text they chose,” O’Connor explained. In the case of senior Elizabeth O’Leary, O’Connor lent her a copy of Stonewater Rapture and she instantly fell in love with it. This particular piece takes a look at adolescent sexuality meeting with religious repression in a small Bible Belt town.
“Never before had I experienced such a strong surge or variety of emotions when reading a play,” O’Leary said. “I knew it wasn’t going to be an easy play to direct, considering the physicality of the show and its controversial content, especially since this is my first time directing. But, anyone who knows me knows I love a good challenge!”
Another play to look forward to is Bobby Gould in Hell. All the pieces in Program B were grouped together because they look at people doing “bad things” and aim to make the audience members examine more closely what they do themselves. This sequel to another play written by David Mamet focuses on Bobby, a sleazy, charismatic Hollywood producer who is sentenced to life in hell and has to plead his way out.
Director Samtur read through seven-eight plays before choosing this one.
“The first time I read it I didn’t understand it,” Samtur said, “but it really resonated with me. Mamet’s style is quick and to the point, and very funny. His message transcends time – it’s not about religion, it’s about an ingrained moral system.”
The involved parties all greatly anticipate their hard work coming to fruition.
“I’m looking forward to seeing my directors see their visions come to life on stage,” O’Connor said with a laugh. “I’m excited to see it all fall together, which usually happens at the last minute.”
“So many people have put so much time and effort into each of these short one-acts that I know it will pay off enormously this weekend,” she said.
There has been a massive amount of work put into the production and realization of these plays, perhaps more so than a casual audience might realize. There have been challenges for everyone involved and true dedication to making this event happen.
“The process is really complex,” O’Connor said. “Most directors are encountering things they never have before. It is very challenging, and they are putting tons of hours in it. The skills gained [and used] are surprising and immeasurable. They have to interpret, collaborate, unify production, be attentive to all the details, encourage creativity, coach. They have a lot to do. It’s exciting for them and for me as well.”
One of the biggest challenges Samtur met was helping the actors understand the characters of the drama on a deeper level.
“It’s hard to get everyone to relate to each other and understand on a plateau beyond just knowing the lines,” he said.
Not only is this a chance for the upperclassmen with a passion for theater to hone their skills and expand their horizons, but it can also be a capstone experience for the directors’ senior year.
O’Leary explained, “for me personally, as a senior and a theatre major, this production means a lot. I’ve watched the theater department change a lot over the past four years and right now I see it growing and improving under great leadership. I’m sad to leave it but I couldn’t think of a better way to end my time here than to have the incredible opportunity of putting on my very own show.”
Samtur, on the other hand, expressed a slightly different take on it.
“This is not necessarily the quintessential project for me, but the play itself is really meaningful. [Bobby Gould in Hell] questions what I question a lot- do you live your life how you want, or do you answer to a higher power? Ultimately, the play says no one is perfect and we must hold ourselves accountable for our actions. I can’t express enough how much this relates to me, the actors, people and society in general. I don’t know if everyone will agree with me, but the only way to find out is to come and see.”
Of course, it is also hoped that the audience will experience some sort of growth as well by attending the shows. Theater productions are one way to foster a sense of community on campus and to support the work done here.
“We want the audience to be astonished, moved, and changed in some way [by these productions]. That’s always a goal,” O’Connor said.
Samtur has a similar view on the value of a production such as the Spring Festival.
“In general, good theater does something no other form of entertainment can,” he said. “I don’t know if it’s because there are people on stage right there in front of us, but it gives us something to react to and think about.”
O’Leary has positive hopes for the festival’s success.
“I really believe that people will enjoy this festival,” she said. “Each show is very different, so you can expect a good variety. Just take a small bit from every show and we’re unstoppable! We’ve got sex, murder, laughter, tears, rape, a man that lives in a closet, two people playing dogs, and a full-blown religious rapture right there on Brehmer stage.”
Admission is free for students.
“We encourage people to go to both programs,” O’Connor said. “These plays are written by some of America’s finest playwrights, and the students’ work is very impressive.”