Student directors lead Theatre’s Studio SeasonTweet
For Josh Mizikowski, directing a show has similarities to conducting a musical ensemble.
“You have to make sure there is harmony and that one section isn’t over-blasting another section,” Mizikowski said. “It’s about getting everything to move in a collaborative effort.
“I like the creative process, but I also like the collaborative process,” he added. “Some people think there is a ‘control freak’ aspect to directing. It’s the least of it! You are a conduit who is there for everyone to pass ideas through and then filter and tweak.”
Mizikowski is one of three graduate students who will direct shows in the Theatre Department’s Fall 2012 Studio Season. Mizikowski’s “Lobby Hero” (written by Kenneth Lonergan) takes the stage at 8 p.m. Nov. 1-3 and 2 p.m. Nov. 4 in Studio A/FA-192. Maureen Mines will direct David Mamet’s “Oleanna” at 8 p.m. Nov. 8-10 and 2 p.m. Nov. 11 in Studio B/Gruber Theater, while Austin Tooley will helm George Walker’s “Problem Child” at 8 p.m. Nov. 30, Dec. 1-2 in Studio B/Gruber Theater. Tickets are $3 and can be purchased at the door.
Tooley said he enjoys directing because he loves storytelling and engaging with audiences.
“As a director, you have to be an audience member in the room,” he said. “You are always seeing things from the outside. The director doesn’t impose things upon the actors, but points out the circumstances of the play and the actual facts so that the actors are free to affect each other onstage.”
The Studio Season gives young directors the opportunity to pitch a show to the Theatre Department based on what Tooley calls “do-ability factors,” such as finding actors and taking advantage of available space. The student directors hold auditions and cast the shows, which can sometimes be a challenge, as roles in fall mainstage productions are already filled.
“A great thing for us as directors in this program is that we get to choose material that connects to us personally,” Tooley said.
As someone interested in plays about class and social warfare, “Problem Child” fits the bill for Tooley. It is a dark comedy about a young couple – former drug addicts – who are trying to get their child back from Protective Services.
“It’s a story about people trying to get their lives back on track,” Tooley said. “At every turn, their past and class holds them back.”
Mizikowski describes “Lobby Hero” as a “dramatic/comedic/romantic piece” about a security guard who becomes embroiled in lies and deceit about a murder investigation. “Oleanna,” meanwhile, tells the story of a male professor and the female student who accuses him of sexual harassment.
“’Oleanna’ raises issues not just of gender politics, but also of class struggle and the challenges faced by students in a post-secondary academic institution when the power dynamic is out of balance,” said Mines, who teaches at Chemung Valley Montessori Middle School in Big Flats.
Working with Mines in a powerful, two-person production has been a great experience for actors Josh Legate and Lisa Stockman.
“This is an emotionally heavy show where the characters are fighting with words,” said Legate, a graduate student. “It requires a great deal of work, commitment and dedication to the text and it challenges the actors on a mature level. The opportunity to challenge our craft in that way is special.”
“One of the biggest things I’ve learned is to trust your scene partner and director,” said Stockman, a sophomore. “Trust that they will take care of you. And trust yourself to follow your impulses and to trust that you are good enough.”
The three productions prove that audiences can discover rich and enjoyable stories at the theater, Mizikowski said.
“Plays are still coming up with new, original ideas,” he said. “Even plays that are 20 years old, people may not know it if there hasn’t been a movie made. … So much of what film is doing is “The Expendables 5” or a remake of a remake.”
Mizikowski urged students interested in directing to have a multi-faceted background. He pointed to the “broad spectrum” of productions that the Theatre Department offers — ranging from musicals to Arthur Miller — as way to learn different styles and jobs on and off stage.
“Having multiple views and experiences really makes a strong director,” he said. “You can have a strong acting background, but knowing a little tech is a good thing, too. People coming in as directors have to be jacks of all trades.”
“A sense of wonder” is one of the prerequisites needed for directing, Tooley said.
“Do it,” he advised, “but be aware that it requires a sense of passion and love, an open heart and an openness to discovery, which is really the key ingredient to everything. You have to be open to saying: ‘I don’t know what is going to happen next!’”