Theatre projects culminate seniors’ time in department

Imagine, while all of your classes are giving you more work than you can handle, you also have to worry about putting on your own production for the Whitworth community. For Whitworth’s senior theatre majors, that is their reality.

As part of the requirement for theatre students, they must complete a senior project. The project can be just about anything, and junior sociology major Courtney Bagdon, who has worked with some of the senior projects, explained the variety found within the projects.

“You can do a traditional performance, directing and/or performing,” Bagdon said. “We had one senior in the fall for technical theatre who worked as technical director for the fall main stage.”

Projects that have already been presented this spring are “Almost Maine” by Jessica Knuth, Isabel Nelson and Alyssa Parkinson; “Parallel Lives” by Maery Simmons and Caitlin Tuttle; “Be With Me In Paradise” by Alivia Bierschbach; Lauren Sandelius and Alison Gonzalez both completed projects; Reid Tennis did technical directing for the fall 2011 main stage show, Hay Fever.

The goal of the senior project is to take the culmination of theatre knowledge and skills you have gained throughout the past four years and showcase them for the faculty and other students, Bagdon further explained.

As one can imagine, creating your own project is no small feat. In fact, senior theatre major Michael Seidel explained, ironically the senior project usually starts in a student’s junior year.

“In spring of junior year, you propose a senior project to all of the theatre faculty, and then you wait, and you wait, and you wait some more and finally you either get approved, approved with modifications or you have to re-propose,” Seidel said.

Once the student is approved, then the real work begins.

“You have things that need to be done six weeks prior to your performance, four weeks, three weeks, two, one and things that need to be done the day before,” Seidel said. “Then after your performance, you have a postmortem with the entire theatre faculty to discuss the whole project from start to finish.”

The whole process can take more than 100 hours, Seidel said, and apparently that experience is quite common.

According to senior cross-cultural studies major Amy Wyatt, who has been involved in many different senior projects, each project is just as time consuming.

“The seniors have to put in a lot of work and effort on these things,” Wyatt said. “There’s hours upon hours that no one even hears about; whether it’s practicing lines or doing blocking or having dress rehearsals, inviting people to come to get their input, changing everything or changing nothing.”

Seidel’s senior project entitled “Straight Talk” showed last week.

The production was done in forum theatre style. Forum style allows the audience to literally stop the production, enter themselves into the show by replacing a character and interact with the other characters to try to change the direction of the performance. Seidel was intentional in making the production specific to Whitworth, allowing audience members to participate in a scenario that is likely to be seen on campus.

The production is about heterosexism, which Wyatt said is the oppression of anyone who is considered to be in the category of being homosexual. It focuses on a group of friends playing cards when one student, Regina, realizes that there’s a homosexual, Annie, living in her hall and she gets uncomfortable. The scene plays out where Regina rants about Annie, eventually leading to having Annie moved to a single room in another dorm.

Seidel’s goal was for the audience to recognize an issue and step in to change the direction. The piece had positive effects on audience members who ended up participating in the production.

“It was really interesting to act out these situations that you see in everyday life,” Bagdon said. “I thought that him deciding to do this was a really unique choice and I’m glad he was bold enough to make this choice because a lot of people are going to oppose this.”

Seidel shared his main goal for creating the possibly controversial piece.

“Heterosexism has always been something I’ve been interested in,” Seidel said. “I have a lot of gay friends and I think it is a topic that gets brushed under the rug. It’s almost OK to be heterosexist.”

Although the topic may be controversial, Seidel mentioned that he wasn’t out to try to change majority opinions on the homosexual issue.

“I would really like to see a change in general in attitudes,” Seidel said. “I didn’t go into this project trying to prove whether homosexuality was right or wrong, I think that’s a really big issue that’s going to take more than one project to change opinions on that. I really just wanted to see action in the Whitworth community that was treating people in a respectful manner whether you agreed with them or not.”

The theatre department’s senior projects are still happening. Senior theatre major Andrew Coopman’s project, “The Actor’s Nightmare,” is playing Friday, April 27 at 7 p.m. and Saturday, April 28 at 3 p.m. on Stage II. Coopman is directing the production that was originally done by Christopher Durang and described it as a comedy portraying an actor’s worst fears while doing a production.

“It’s hilarious,” Coopman said. “You have the classic nightmares of forgetting your lines or not knowing blocking or even forgetting the show. You have that all kind of put together in this one production in which we follow George Spelvin, the main character, trying to catch on to the show.”

Tickets are $2 to attend.

Story by Jacqueline Goldman Staff Writer

Photography by Hope Barnes

Contact Jacqueline Goldman at jgoldman13@my.whitworth.edu.

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