Spring Festival: A Showcase of Student Talent

In case you haven’t heard any reviews of Spring Festival 2005, the general response to the series of student performances was a mixture of shock, admiration, awe and a whole lot of “Wow, that guy actually danced to Prince in drag to fulfill his acting class requirement.”

This past weekend, six plays were performed at the Brehmer Theater, each a product of the combined efforts of students enrolled in acting, set design, playwriting and directing classes. The multiple performances on Thursday, Friday and Saturday were for the benefit of friends, professors, parents and anyone else looking to appreciate the ingenuity, talent and raw courage of all who were involved.

Each year, Spring Festival provides a unique and valuable opportunity for students to experience the behind-the-scenes process of theater production. From the scene designers who help to build and paint sets, to the writers who see their words come to life, to the actors who spend hours memorizing lines, every participant gains a newfound appreciation for the final product that an audience often takes for granted.

This year’s directors and writers have a broad range of previous experience in Colgate Student Theater and other drama programs. Senior Jon Barinholtz directed Tomorrow Over Turkey, written by classmate Natasha Sunderland. Barinholtz explains, “As a director, I experienced a completely new side of theater … it was incredibly nerve-racking to sit amongst people who were viewing something I had played a part in creating. I’ve been involved with theater at Colgate since freshman year, but, as an actor, I never got to see my work from an audience’s perspective. Ultimately, it was one of the most rewarding experiences I’ve been involved with while at Colgate; it made me further recognize how involved a process putting up a show is.”

Senior Drew Beitz, director of Maura Kehoe’s Unsaid, reflects on the difficulties he encountered while directing, “My biggest challenge was getting the actors to believe in their own abilities. I knew what they were capable of when casting them, and I had no doubts.” The fact that the student actors had a wide range of experience, with some performing for the first time, was a challenge that both directors and actors had to overcome. Beitz further exclaimed, “It’s great to see the show finally get pulled together, and to see how proud the cast was of their work. They worked hard, and it showed.”

The dedication of the actors was abundantly clear when individuals like sophomore Josh Shapiro, the lead in junior Sylvia Smith’s Daddy’s Little … carried off a near flawless performance in a play which was composed almost entirely of his character’s monologues. Despite the audience laughing at his character’s dramatic flair for drag, Shapiro was able to go on with the show with a straight face and confidence.

The performers in senior Adam Kosan’s Bright Lights also impressed the audience with their skilled performances, helping to bring to life a play about the energy, desperation and delusional optimism of being young. Kosan is grateful for the opportunity to be involved in the Spring Festival and remarks, “Having always been interested but never involved, the Festival gave me the chance to try my hand at something new.

People are often piqued by something but lack the guts to ever give it a go.” While writing a play for the first time proved to be very challenging, Kosan concluded, “In the end, when you finally bring your idea to fruition in the form of a completed play, it is very fulfilling. It makes all the struggling worth it.”

Some students, like junior Case Aiken, took on multiple responsibilities in Spring Festival. In addition to acting in two of the plays, Aiken wrote Called. As he describes, “Called is a play about the backdoor draft that the U.S. acted on individuals in the army reserves for the recent war in Iraq; and specifically about the moral struggle of one individual as he goes through it.” Aiken is currently the General Manager of the Student Musical Theater Company and has been involved in multiple Student Theater productions over the course of his three years at Colgate.

While the Spring Festival showcases student talent and creativity, it would be an injustice to overlook the guidance of faculty, like David Epstein. Senior Nick Thielen expresses, “[Epstein’s] experience in theater was an invaluable resource for honing my directorial skills during this process.

His guidance was one of the greatest advantages of this project.” Epstein is the Christian A. Johnson Endeavor Foundation Artist-in-Residence and teaches in the Department of English/University Theater; he and other faculty members of the University Theater department acted as producers, overseeing each process as the plays grew from the ground up.

An overall positive experience, Spring Festival 2005 was an entertaining showcase of original plays and, as in previous years, it demonstrated the talent and dedication of theater department students and the benefits of teamwork.