By MORGAN KING – STAFF WRITER
If you are interested in the dramatic arts, then Professor of Dramatic Arts Dr. Patrick Kagan-Moore’s “Directing” class could be just the class for you.
“The class actually reminded me a lot of a photography class at first, because we studied a lot of pictures to learn about the use of shaping and lines,” junior Savannah Taylor said. “As we moved into the semester, we had a lot of movement-based lecture. We also read a play and analyzed it. All of this was really important as we geared up for our final project.”
Halfway through the semester, the students pick a play that they themselves will produce. They make decisions on casting, acting, stage direction, costumes, props, and stage decoration. Their final project accumulates in their one-act play that is performed in the Black Box Theater on the fifth floor of Grant Hall during the final week of classes.
Needless to say, this course’s workload preparing for such an event is intense.
“Directing your own play is really scary,” junior Cassie Chambers said. “If you are writing a very big essay, you are in the quiet of your own room or the library and you are just doing it. But with this, you are in charge of a cast of peers, and in some cases elders, so it can’t be kept quiet if you are not good at it. So many people are watching.”
The student directors are able to pick a play that speaks to them. For Chambers, she chose her favorite playwright Tennessee Williams and his play Lord Byron’s Love Letter.
“I picked it because it is a comedy. Williams usually writes a lot of serious stuff and I wanted to pick something that would make the audience laugh,” Chambers said. “It’s about an old woman who is obsessed with Lord Byron. But I will not say anymore than that, because I do not want to give everything away!”
For Georgia James, one of Centre’s Rose Bruford exchange students, the one-act play she will direct is focused on women.
“I’m doing ‘Triplet’ by Kitty Johnson. I definitely wanted a play that had a lot of acting opportunities for women,” James said. “I believe women do not get enough of the good opportunities that men do when it comes to the theater. I wanted my play to have these opportunities.”
James was able to be a director in her time before taking this course.
“Both times I have [directed], I only had a week to put everything together, so that was very stressful. This is different, but it is more exciting. It is going more smoothly,” James said.
The students are involved in every aspect of their play, including casting fellow Centre students and then analyzing and working closely with their actors to create their vision.
“Each piece of the play is hard. I believe it depends on where you are in production because each stage has its different pressure and stress,” James said. “In the beginning it is we, the directors, who are stressed organizing, but then at the end the stress is focused on the actors who are about to perform.”
A lot of the student directors have had previous experience with the dramatic arts world, but not necessarily in directing itself. Having to focus on the whole picture, instead of their usual niche in the dramatic arts scene, is tough but instructive.
“Usually I deal a lot with the scenic aspect of productions,” Chambers said. “So this class is enlightening [for] me. I get to focus more on the on-stage features, like acting, instead of set placement.”
James has similar sentiments.
“The hardest part for me, actually, is not being able to act. Sometimes I act out what I want and it is tough because I do not want to be condescending to the performers; it is just how I visualize and teach,” James said.
Like James, student director and senior Olivia Kernekin previous directed.
“I’ve directed a play before, and it’s really fun. That is what made me so excited for this class,” Kernekin said.
Kernekin’s play is Buddha by Katherine Houghton, centered on a chance meeting between a man and a woman.
The student directors are responsible for thinking of the smallest details for every aspect of blocking and acting, from how far an actor should walk to the certain tone a line should have when delivered by an actor.
A director makes decisions after seeing different takes and thinking about what fits the best. They also ask the actors questions during the rehearsal process to get them inside their character and to create the reality of the world of the play.
The class has come a long way since their first day of class. According to Chambers, everyone was at a loss when it came to trying to decide where to begin and how to give their first instructions to their cast members.
“When we first started we all really did not know where to start,” Chambers said. “But then when we started to have our first couple of rehearsals, made a schedule, and met with our professor about [our ideas] it got a lot easier and I feel like I am a lot better at it.”
The process of breaking things down has helped all of the student directors tremendously.
“We make ‘mini scenes called ‘beats’ and break down what we want to focus on in that beat,” Chambers said. “For example, in one beat the main focus is reminiscing and everything, from the acting to the lighting, goes to that focus.”
At this point in the semester, the class is working out the final stages of their projects before their first performances.
“Directing plays lets you learn to be a practitioner of the art. [It] is such a great skill for actors to learn how directors work,” James said.