Theater introduces student directors

Program members take control of upcoming winter show


Brooklyn Donelson

Juniors Ayanna Nathan and Zoe Zachek and sophomore Morgan Graves read the play’s one act script Dec. 4.

Yonit Krebs and Sumaya Mohamed

Senior cast member Thomas Bryant looks forward to the upcoming winter one-act which is a production comprised of four smaller plays directed by students.

“The one-act this year is called ‘Unwrap Your Candy’ and it’s a series of four vignettes, short scenes, that are intentionally disturbing and meant to basically screw with the viewer,” Bryant said. “All four scenes are going to be student-directed by different people, so you are going to get to see student actors work reflected in this piece.”

According to theater program director Jodi Hatzenbeller, the four shorter plays are intentionally separate. She said the shorter pieces will help when the theater program takes the production to competition.

“They are totally different stories with a few common threads, but the main thing is that they were written by the same author and intended as one evening of theater,” Hatzenbeller said. “At competitions we have to have a play that’s 35 minutes or less in run time. If we do a longer play we have to cut it down to 35 minutes, but if we do a series of shorter plays we can pick one or maybe two of those to go to competition.”

Bryant said he thinks the crew will be building a minimal set to emphasize the dark themes of the show.

“The minimalist set is to allow for the audience to imagine as much of the show as they need to for a show that’s very abstract and disturbing and allow people to fill in the abstract and disturbing elements with their own abstract and disturbing thoughts,” Bryant said.

Hatzenbeller said the dark theme of the show provides a different challenge for the actors.

“It’s really stretching us in a different way than in musical theater or a comedy piece, while there might be comedic elements, these are dark and dramatic in ways that we haven’t done for a while,” Hatzenbeller said.

Hatzenbeller said she introduced having student directors this year because she thought the cast and crew were uniquely able to take on the challenge.

“(Student directing) doesn’t always happen, but we have done it a few times in the past and this felt like the right year to do it,” Hatzenbeller said. “We have some really strong leadership and some very intuitive actors and technicians that I thought were ready for the task.”

New perspectives will benefit the production, Bryant said, but he does anticipate some difficulties along the way as this will be the students’ first time directing a production.

“It’s going to really benefit us because maybe we’ll see new visions in it. Students will gain new abilities in directing and leadership,” Bryant said. “There will probably be difficulties in that a lot of people will probably be crafting their first scenes from scratch so that’ll be a definite journey in getting this thing together, but I believe we’re going to do awesome.”

Hatzenbeller said another benefit of multiple directors is they can avoid some of the space limitation on the production.

“If we picked the right shows for the directors, then we can be rehearsing in multiple spaces really making the best use of time and space,” Hatzenbeller said. “December is a tough month where we don’t get to be in the auditorium very much and so we have to be creative and rehearse in this hallway or this classroom and by having multiple smaller scenes it is easier for us to manage that.”

According to Hatzenbeller, so far student directing has been a positive experience and she is pleased with the way the actors and the directors have been working together to create the production.

“So far I’m incredibly impressed with the directors and the work they’ve done and the actors willingness to collaborate in that way,” Hatzenbeller said. “(As a student director,) you are really in the driver’s seat making decisions and learning how to work with peers and manage them creatively.”

According to Hatzenbeller, her job as the production supervising director is to ensure that the four plays are cohesive as a whole.

“I might step in and give some feedback sometimes about what I think is really working,” Hatzenbeller said. “If I think something is taking it out of that cohesive night of theater, then I might redirect the directors to try different things that will help it get a little more fluid between the scenes, but mostly I’m supervising and really enjoying watching the process from the outside.”

According to the St. Louis Park School District calendar, “Unwrap Your Candy” will be performed Jan. 19 and 20 at 7 p.m. and Jan. 21 at 2 p.m.