Willimantic, CT. – From April 14-18, the Performing Arts Department at Eastern Connecticut State University presented “Power Plays,” a showcase of four international one-act plays, in the Studio Theater of Eastern’s new Fine Arts Instructional Center (FAIC).
The shows were the first productions in the new studio theater and were directed by Eastern’s most advanced senior directing students – Maggie Casto, Ty Collige and Caitlin McDonough. The directing of these one-act plays marks the culminating final project for these student directors, who have completed two years of directing classes, stage management and assistant directing duties and opportunities to opportunities to direct staged readings.
“Throughout this process I have been very grateful to have such a great cast and technical crew,” said Collige. “I would also like to thank Professor Brodie as well as the staff of the entire Theatre program at Eastern for the education, support and opportunities I was able to take advantage of during my college career.”
Directed by Collige, “Medusa’s Tale” by Carol Lashof presents the famous character of Medusa, who is normally depicted in an evil light. The play challenges audience members to look at Medusa in a way that is different from the one in which she has been historically viewed. “The biggest challenge as a director was passing on my knowledge about Greek mythology and Greek style theatre,” said Collige. “Not only did the actors need to learn more about their own characters but also the relationship between each character, and with this knowledge they had to develop the character to suit themselves.”
“Working with a student director was a wonderful opportunity,” said Zoe Czerenda, who played Athena in “Medusa’s Tale.” “I also had to tap into a different part of myself for this role and I didn’t anticipate how difficult it would be to convey a character so different from myself. But Ty worked with us all throughout the process and made everything come together.”
Collige also directed “The Man Who Turned Into A Stick” by Kobo Abe, which discusses the loss of individuality and the sensitive topic of suicide. “After first reading it I found that I was still thinking of the overall messages and how it pertains to our society today,” said Collige. “I feel that people today have lost a sense of individuality as they have lost the ability to truly socialize without the support of technology.
“The difficultly with this play was two-fold. On a personal and emotional level, this play forced me to address how I felt about each of these topics, and furthermore, I had to have my cast discuss and confront their feelings about it as well,” said Collige. “Our second big step was to make the characters come to life, especially characters who were not human.”
Directed by Maggie Casto, “Love of One’s Neighbor” by Leonid Andreyev is a potent comedy about human nature, the one-act structure fitting the irreverent and satirical comedy of the play perfectly. “From the moment I finished reading ‘Love of One’s Neighbor’ I was hooked,” said Casto. “From the gorgeous mountainside setting, to the larger-than-life characters and the frenetic pacing, it is a story begging to be told.
“This show represents the culmination of my college experience in a multitude of ways,” said Casto. “Directing a main stage show my senior year was my goal for college and this play is an incredibly relevant show that warns against believing everything you hear.”
“As an actor I felt uniquely involved in this show,” said Alissa Pereira, who played the Lady in “Love of One’s Neighbor.” “Having a student director allowed everyone to participate in a collaborative process.”
Molly Bagley, who played Jaime in “Love of One’s Neighbor,” said, “Despite intensive rehearsals, this show was so much fun. This was a very experimental style of learning and a great leap outside of my comfort zone.”
Directed by Caitlin McDonough, “Out of Our Father’s House” by Eve Merriam provides an insightful look at the lives of women in the 19th through mid-20th centuries in the United States, exploring a variety of feminist issues that are still relevant more than four decades since its premier. However, McDonough brought her own interpretation to the show, adding contemporary music to connect the stories to the present day. “I was attracted to ‘Out of Our Father’s House’ because of its strong female characters,” said McDonough. “As a director this show gave me the ability to work with the actors who brought life to these powerful stories through their monologues. While this play is minimalistic, it gave me freedom to create something new and was a challenge to take on creatively.
“It was exciting to apply the skills I have acquired as a theatre major over the course of my college career,” said McDonough. “I hope the audience was inspired by the story and was able to get a glimpse into my sense of creativity.”
“The preparation process for this show involved a lot of research because my character was a real-life woman and all of our monologues were taken from the letters, books and speeches of the people we were playing,” said Lucy Shea, who played Elizabeth Cady Stanton. “This play is very important because the messages of political inequality and sexism are still very relevant today.”
Caption: Zoe Czerenda as Athena in “Medusa’s Tale”