By Ellin Youse
The newest additions to Ohio Wesleyan’s theater department took to the stage for the first time last Saturday night at the Chappelear Drama Center in “Scenes!”
The performance is an annual collaboration between the Theatre and Dance department’s directing class and students who are new to the program, both freshmen and transfers.
“Scenes!” allows both groups of students to experience a new area of drama, with the new students taking the stage for the first time and the upperclassmen stepping down from it.
Junior Jason Bogdany said this transition from acting to directing was the highlight of the production, despite the difficulty of having to sit back and watch as opposed to performing.
“My favorite part of ‘Scenes!’ was, for the first time, actually being able to direct actors and getting them ready for their performance,” Bogdany said.
“I have experienced performances as an actor or working backstage, but it’s a completely different feeling when your work has shaped a scene that you no longer have control over. It can be a little scary, but exciting at the same time.”
Freshman Maeve Nash said her director, junior Megan Pinto, taught her most of her knowledge on acting in just the first few weeks at OWU.
“My director (Pinto) was absolutely amazing to work with,” Nash said. “She helped me and my scene partner explore our characters; I actually learned a lot about acting in just my first weeks here! It’s hard to believe it was her very first time directing.”
The students performed ten scenes pulled from various productions, each lasting about four minutes.
However, what the scenes lacked in length they made up for in intensity, each portraying an extremely dramatic scenario.
From a pair of skateboarding grandmothers to a pair of old girl friends unmasking their love and sexual tension for one another, the actors balanced highly melodramatic content with comedic silliness.
While some scenes took either a dominant comedic or dramatic tone, some scenes combined both. Junior Kati Sweigard’s scene from Tennessee William’s “Suddenly, Last Summer,” depicted a desperate aunt begging a surgeon to perform a lobotomy on her niece.
Despite the complicated and dark content of the script, the one-liners delivered by freshman Lane Bookwalter during his performance as Dr. Cukrowicz inspired chuckles from the audience despite his scene partner, freshman Hannah Simpson’s harsh, threatening lines.
Sweigard said she took pride in her actors’ ability to combine these light and dark moments interchangeably.
“The best part about rehearsals was that we were able to have fun while getting a lot of work done,” Sweigard said.
“Lane and Hannah and I had a really good balance of silly and serious, so there was never a dull moment although our scene was very serious and tense.”
Although the four weeks of rehearsal demanded high-intensity acting, Simpson said her experience working on the show was a fun and energetic experience that allowed her to connect with her cast mates.
“Getting to know Kati and Lane so well was my favorite part of ‘Scenes!’” Simpson said.
“We all worked so closely with each other, and we all clicked very well. Kati is a great director; she gives clear, concise notes and still allows her actors the freedom to explore their characters on their own. Lane is just a wonderful scene partner; he is so full of energy, and he is so committed to what he does. And, of course, it was amazing to watch my cast mates perform and see their hard work pay off.”
Junior Gus Wood, director of the scene from Steve Martin’s “Underpants,” said he was only able to share in his cast members’ excitement after his scene was over.
“I mean this in the best possible way, but my favorite moment was right after my scene was over,” Wood said.
“I was so nervous about it, just because that’s how I am. I was wringing my hands but as soon as they got onstage and the laughter happened, I could feel myself breathing again.”
Wood said although performing and directing comes with a healthy anxiety, his passion and appreciation for theater always brings him back to the stage.
“What draws me to the theatre is its honesty,” Wood said. “It’s one of the rawest and most spontaneous communicative art forms we have left.”