Student directors bring their plays to the stageTweet
The University’s Theatre Department is starting the studio season with a “harrowing evening,” according to Maureen Mines, a graduate student and director of “The Whole Shebang.”
The evening will feature three plays directed by students. The audience will travel from a “devastating” play about terrorists and freedom fighters (“Pischer,” directed by Joshua Mizikowski), to a “realistic mystery” that will leave the audience debating (“Trip’s Cinch,” directed by NJ Agwuna), and finally to a play that will leave them “questioning their lives and existence” (“The Whole Shebang,” directed by Mines).
“Pischer,” written by Ted Nusbaum, tells the story of a Yeshivah student who joins an underground Jewish terrorist cell in East Jerusalem after the death of his older brother at the hands of a Palestinian suicide bomber. In “The Whole Shebang,” written by Rich Orloff, a student in a far-away dimension studying for a “Master of the Universe” degree gives an oral presentation on the creation of the heavens and earth. The play asks the question: “What if the entire universe was just some nerd’s science project?” “Trip’s Cinch,” by Phyllis Nagy, looks at the aftermath of an alleged rape from three different perspectives.
Mizikowski believes anyone would enjoy the shows.
“It’s $6, and you get two and a half hours of entertainment,” he said. “These are stories you won’t get to see anywhere else.”
The studio shows will be shown March 1-4, beginning at 8 p.m. each night in Studios A and B in the Fine Arts Building. Tickets are $2 per show.
The directors are advised by Tom Kremer. Mizikowski described advisement as a “semi-collaborative process.” The directors typically choose an advisor when they propose the project. “The advisors will be there through the audition process from the beginning,” Mizikowski said.
“It’s an educational experience,” Mizikowski said. “It is for enjoyment, but this is to keep us on track.” Mizikowski has meetings with his advisor at least once per week, in addition to the advisor coming to rehearsals, and going over notes with Mizikowski. “And, sometimes we just spit-ball ideas,” he said. “They’re there to help you.”
According to Mizikowski, not many other universities have programs to the same extent as the Studio Show program. “It’s why I picked BU,” he said. After two years in the graduate program, he said students have done two full-length pieces. “You can really see growth,” he said.
For Brenden Gregory, a freshman and actor in “Pischer,” working with Mizikowski has been a valuable experience. “The things I’m learning are great acting experiences, and other experiences, for later while I’m here at BU,” he said. Being in the studio show has allowed him the freedom to experiment and learn. “It sets you up for bigger and better things in the department.”
Arshia Pinacker, a junior acting in “The Whole Shebang,” finds it rewarding to work with a larger cast for a studio show. This cast has six people, while others are much smaller. “It’s a very valuable experience because in the big shows, you’re not necessarily interacting with so many individual people at once,” she said. For her, there are so many areas of stimuli; she has had to learn what to focus on and what to take in.
On the other hand, Lindsay Ryan, a junior acting in “Trip’s Cinch,” finds working with a small cast difficult. There are three people in the cast, but only two people appear on stage together at a time. “We need each other desperately to make it work,” she said.
“I think the most rewarding part is the most challenging part, and that is finding the common ground among all these different levels of experience,” Mines said. She enjoys the opportunity to explore talents in individuals with varying levels of experience. Putting those talents and experiences into “one cohesive unit” can be challenging, but she said it is ultimately a rewarding experience for her.
“The most important thing for me is that I tell a good, clear, concise story,” Mizikowski said. He wants the audience to get the most out of the show as possible.
This clear, concise story does not always come easily. “The challenge for us as actors is always to bring a truth to the character that we’re portraying, and to never get lost in the character and get lax about it,” Gregory said.
“Finding the age (of my character) has been difficult, the life experience that I don’t have yet, and putting it into the character and making it real,” Pinacker said. Her character is significantly older than she is.
For Ryan, it is difficult to step away from trying to be “right.” “There is no right or wrong in acting,” she said. “It’s what’s true. It’s living and it’s breathing.”
Gregory has struggled with this as well. “I think one of the best things I’m taking away from (this) is allowing myself to let go, and to just let the experiences of the character get to me, and not care so much about whether it’s right or wrong,” he said.
This semester, the department is offering eight shows. “I rarely ever hear of any kind of department that can offer eight shows a semester, with different casts, different ideas, and different things happening. That gives the actors and the directors so many opportunities,” Mizikowski said.
“I’m constantly impressed with the high quality of everything we do here is,” Gregory said. “Every single detail of a show is looked at and scrutinized, and nothing is just left to be ‘good enough.’”
The studio shows are treated as a professional environment. Agwuna believes this teaches responsibility, a necessity in the professional world. For Mizikowski, working on these types of productions enhances many useful skills and abilities. “You have to have the skills of a public speaker, and you have to have to have the skills of an English major in analyzing text,” he said. Mines emphasized the ability to “think on your feet.”
“There’s something special about this department’s unity and how welcoming everyone is,” Ryan said. “I feel so lucky to be a part of this.”