Sunday, March 18, 2012

Guest Blogger: Student Director and Playwright, Elizabeth Dieterich

We asked one of our theatre students to be a guest blogger! Elizabeth Dieterich was kind enough to write an entry about the Student Written and Directed One-Act Festival (March 18, 19, 20, and 21). The festival is a big event for Miss Dieterich. Not only is she one of the featured playwrights, but she also directed a show in the festival.

Well, it’s that time of year again. The weather is turning around, birds are singing, the end of the semester is in sight, graduation’s coming, we’re about to have auditions for our spring show aaannnndd….
The Student Written and Directed One-Act Festival is here!!!

We’re Eastern Michigan University students from all backgrounds. We’re Theatre Arts majors and minors, or students from outside the department.
We’re the writers. We’re the directors. We’re the actors.
We’re the makeup artists, costumers, choreographers, set designers, stage managers, prop hunters… and we’re in the audience!!

That’s the One-Acts. Student produced, student centered. It’s about you and me: by EMU students, for EMU students.

Before graduating, we Theatre majors are all required to have directing experience in the program before getting our degrees and taking the professional theatre world by storm.
Directing in the lab is not only a chance to fulfill this requirement, but also an opportunity to learn what it’s like to run our own shows.
Graduating in April, it was high time I sign up to direct. So I did, not even knowing what to expect….

Writing a play for the One-Acts is open to any EMU student. That means creative writing students, literature students, education majors, biology fellows, or really just anyone who has a script in mind! We write scripts with no more than 4 characters, and try to keep it under 20 minutes.

“…[U]nless this miracle have might,
That in black ink, my love may still shine bright”

I had a play in my mind for over a year before sitting down to write The Macon County Line. Writing this in a one-act was the perfect way to get the message of the script across and take the play for a “test drive.” Does it work? What does it sound like out loud? Will the director get it? The actors? Will people like it??

So out of many, many script submissions and directing applications, the Festival is born….

One day, walking through Quirk, I was delighted to see my name on the announcement twice. I got in this year as a director, and as a playwright.

The process all starts with directors getting the scripts.
We get a chance to meet and chat about our shared and different visions for the script.
I got to talk to playwright Michael Herman about what he was thinking when he wrote The Blue Rose.
I got to talk to director Brandon Grantz about The Macon County Line.

We all hold auditions and callbacks together. This is when real fun starts, ‘cause most of us are also actors – whether we’ve written for the festival or are directing.
Being on the other side of the casting table is a truly invaluable experience for any actor. As actors, we’d all like to know…“What are those directors thinking??”
Well for one thing, turns out we get just as nervous as you do!

Casting decisions are very hard, but they’re also thrilling. I could barely contain my excitement when I realized the words I’d written sounded great in the mouths of talented performers.

After we’ve cast our shows, we get down and dirty in rehearsals….

It’s true that directing requires attention to minute detail and tedious planning, setting rehearsal schedules, and getting spaces. We’ve got about a month to put up a great show. Needless to say, it’s a grueling process.

But once we’ve got the shows on their feet, we’re rockin’ and rollin’….

I’ve had the opportunity to work with several different faculty directors at EMU, either in classes or shows, so I had to draw on what I knew. I considered what worked for me, as an actor. But of course, that isn’t going to work for everyone.
Part of the rehearsal process is feeling out another person’s sense of taking direction, or interpreting text. And of course, that changed for each of my four incredible actors!

To continue the collaboration, my playwright – Michael Herman – came in to choreograph dance sequences. Now that’s a vision for the script!

Michael Herman choreographs a dance scene with Ramon Garcia and Rebecca Robinson for The Blue Rose.

As a playwright, I discussed all the literary references, specific lines, and character backgrounds with Brandon Grantz and his cast. This was chance to leave the directing to someone else, while maintaining my vision for Macon through the text.
I bet many a director wishes Shakespeare were around to ask the questions these folks got to ask me!

All this collaboration, and I haven’t even mentioned the amazing job the performers have done!
Our actors are talented, funny, smart, flexible (sometimes quite literally…), and adaptive.

Jahmeel Powers and Charlotte Frutig rehearse for The Blue Rose in the Lab Theatre.

So, the One-Acts are a chance for students to showcase our work and learn from every single element of the process. At only $5 a ticket in the Lab theatre during the school week, they’re an opportunity for students, faculty, and friends to go see the work EMU Theatre is producing.

The Student Written One-Act Festival:
March 18 @ 5pm
March 19 @ 8pm
March 20 @ 8pm
March 21 @ 5pm & 8pm
(Note: The Student One Act Festival is a popular performance series. Tickets cannot be purchased in advance and are sold A HALF HOUR BEFORE the performance. It is recommended to arrive early to secure a ticket). 

Join us and let the drama set you free.

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