Theatre to present simultaneous student-directed shows

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Catherine Stallard | The Houstonian
Catherine Stallard | The Houstonian

 

“The Other Place”

The department of theatre and musical theatre will close out their performance season with two student-directed shows, one of which is “The Other Place,” a story of a woman suffering from Alzheimer’s disease.

Senior musical theatre major Ryan Smith directs the play written by Sharr White. He said the themes in this play aided his desire to direct the production.

“Mental illness is not a topic that gets a lot of play in live theatre and when it does, all you get to do is watch it and see how it affects people,” Smith said. “What I really like about this show is that the author structured it so well that as an audience member you experience the insanity. I thought it was a really strong piece that I think will succeed in a small town like Huntsville.”

Smith said the challenge of directing any show is putting one’s own mark on the production.

“What’s the point in doing a show if you’re not going to make it your own,” Smith said. “Reinventing it, reimagining it, not making it ‘The Other Place’ but making it ‘The Other Place’ for this group of people has been a challenge but it has been fantastically fun.”

Senior musical theatre major Kasi Hollowell, plays Juliana, the woman suffering from Alzheimer’s, and said her role differs from most.

“It was just such a strong character and you don’t often see a whole lot of strong female characters,” Hollowell said. “They don’t present her as weak. She’s a strong, smart, very funny woman and is experiencing [Alzheimer’s] and living with it and living through it as opposed to suffering from it.”

Performing a show centered on such an emotionally heavy topic presents a unique set of challenges for both the cast and the crew. Senior musical theatre major Megan Jankovic said her role presents required a complex and flexible style of acting.

“I play three different characters, and they’re different personalities,” Jankovic said. “It’s difficult to make sure that you’re not playing the same character and finding ways to make them different and unique.”

Along with Jankovic, senior musical theatre major Brady Suggs also plays multiple roles. Collectively, Jankovic

Junior theatre major Swayde McGaughey plays the character Ian and said the family the cast has created and the relationships he has built while working on this show has aided his growth as an actor.

“It’s pushed me in a way I didn’t know I needed to be pushed,” McGaughey said. “Ryan has taught me a lot of things about directing as well. Working with such great people forces you to push yourself.”

McGaughey said he wants to send the message of not only hope but also perseverance to the audience.

“Even when things get as hard as they can be, you just have to hope that things will get better,” Smith said.

Above all, Smith said the message he wants to send with this production is simply one of hope.

“I just want the audience to leave [knowing] it is so important to know that you are not your circumstances and if every day feels like your are closer and closer to losing, then your only option is to win,” Smith said.

“The Other Place” opens tonight in the Showcase Theater at 8 p.m. with house opening at 7:30 p.m. There will also be performances on Thursday at 8 p.m. and Saturday at 2 p.m. with house opening at 1:30 p.m. For more information and to purchase tickets, contact the University Theatre Center at 936-294-1339.

 

“The Language Archive”

The Sam Houston State University department of theatre and musical theatre will present one of its final productions, “The Language Archive,” this week.

Senior theatre major Peter Ton directed the show and said this play was important to him because it drew parallels to his own life.

“I connected with it on a personal level coming from a different background,” Ton said. “This play is about languages and passing on that culture of the language to another generation.”

“The Language Archive” tells the story of five individuals all struggling with inner conflicts and relationships between each other. The characters are all connected in some way, yet each goes on their own personal journey throughout the play.

Senior theatre major Christopher Preslar plays the character George and said the writing of the play was what pulled him into it and made it stand out from others.

“It’s really the poetry of it,” Preslar said. “It’s so rare that you find a play that’s so very poetic. Most modern day plays are written in simple, every day prose…This play is just like music through language.”

Senior theatre major Ashten Lane, playing the role of Mary, said the closeness of the cast helped her throughout this show. as cast members learned not only about their characters but about each other as well.

“Every rehearsal, we will almost just fade from rehearsing into these deep conversations where we just start talking about life,” Lane said. “The script just takes you there.”

Preslar echoed Lane’s thoughts on the power of the rehearsal process, adding that the script help the cast gain perspective.

“This script is really powerful because it begs questions that can’t be answered so simply,” Preslar said. “It’s interesting because we each have our own perspective on it but somehow it melts together.”

Junior theatre major Channing Horton said her role in this play has challenged her and helped her grow as an actor.

“It’s interesting and it’s difficult but it’s definitely pushing me because if I get frustrated it means I care enough to want to do good and to make people proud,” Horton said.

The roles of Raasten, played by senior theatre major Tanner Stogsdill, and Alta, played by freshman theatre major Alex Raasch’s have unique requirements, considering they play multiple characters throughout the show. Stogsdill said this has been a fun and challenging process for him.

“It’s not about just having one character and making that person come alive,” Stogsdill said. “It’s about finding a different voice for each character and making distinct choices.”

Raasch said the challenges in playing multiple characters comes from their emotional highs and lows.

“This show is pushing me as an actor in the best way possible,” Raasch said. “There’s a few times where I want to have a breakdown, but it’s good for me.”

Lane said playing these kinds of characters also helps one to become more in tune with themselves not only as an actor but as a human being.

“When you play a character, you have to find things inside of you that are real and [realize] that everyone has those kinds of feelings,” Lane said. “Those feelings of wanting to leave who you are and go make something new has been kind of scary. It’s been interesting and exciting.”

Ton hopes the show will communicate the power of emotions, language and human nature and how that affects us as beings to the audience.

“What I’m trying to convey is that everyone wants to be seen and heard known for who they really are…but we are also scared of letting people know us,” Ton said. “We also don’t fully understand who we really are because we’re constantly changing.”

Ton and his cast all hope that their audiences take something special away from this show. Stogsdill hopes people will take away a lesson of happiness and importance after seeing the performance.

“Find someone or do something that makes you happy because life is hard and not everything is going to go your way,” Stogsdill said. “But as long as you have someone or something that keeps you going, that’s what really matters.”

Ton hopes the audiences walk out feeling the need to share their own experiences and emotions with others.

“I think that the audience should leave deciding to tell their story,” Ton said. “We are all storytellers and we all deserve to let someone know our story.”

“The Language Archive” opens tomorrow and will run Friday and Saturday in the Showcase Theater.

Performances begin at 8 p.m. with house opening at 7:30 p.m. For more information or to purchase tickets, contact the University Theatre Center at 936-294-1339.