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Lafayette College Theater will conclude its 1999-2000 season salute to 20th century American drama with American Acts, nine one-act plays directed by Lafayette students. Performances will take place at 8 p.m. April 27, 28, and 29 in the Black Box Theater of the Williams Center for the Arts.

Three plays will be staged each night, with a total of 34 student actors involved. Admission is free, but tickets are required. To reserve them, call the Williams Center box office, (610) 330-5009.

The student directors are enrolled in the course Stage Direction taught by Michael O’Neill, Lafayette’s director of theater.

“The class involves a hands-on approach to directing,” O’Neill says. “We spent the first half of the semester applying various ideas about staging and interpreting scripts to directing exercises in class. The second part of the course offers the students the opportunity to test ideas and explore practical approaches in real directing situations.”

The students selected their plays, researched them, auditioned actors, cast the shows, and led rehearsals, fulfilling most of the responsibilities that any director would in preparing a play. “My intention is to expose them to the entire process of directing a play — albeit a short one — for performance,” O’Neill says. “I can discuss directing with them and we can read about directors and directing theory — and we have — but the best way to learn about directing is actually to direct.”

The student directors and their plays are:

  • Andrew Bostian, a sophomore from Seekonk, Mass. — Next by Terrence McNally
  • Laura Cece, a senior from Williamstown, Mass. — I Didn’t Know You Could Cook by Rich Orloff
  • Julie Drendall, a senior from King of Prussia, Pa. — Fitting Rooms by Susan Cinoman
  • Peter Girard, a junior from Red Bank, N.J. — Fireworks Lie Secret Codes by John Guare
  • Gianna Locascio, a senior from Atlantic Highlands, N.J. – Vivien by Percy Granger
  • Rashada Norman, a first-year student from Bethlehem, Pa. — A Need For Brussels Sprouts by Murray Schisgal
  • Michael O’Neil, a senior from Cincinnati, Ohio — English Made Simple by David Ives
  • Josh Oshinsky, a senior from Baldwin, N.Y. — Pitching to the Star by Donald Margulies
  • Sandra Veresink, a sophomore from Easton, Pa., — The Actor’s Nightmare by Christopher Durang

Locascio’s play, Vivien, first performed in 1979, highlights the events and conversations of a one-day encounter between a father and son who have not seen each other for 25 years. Vivien, the father, has been in a psychiatric residential hospital during that time, and his son, Paul, has not had any contact with him since he was ten years old. Paul decides to visit Vivien and over the course of the day learns more about his father, his father’s illness, and also about himself and his own difficulties.

“The choice to take this theater class was one of the best I’ve made in my four years at Lafayette,” says Locascio. “Although I’ve been involved with theater for more than 17 years, I’ve always been onstage and have never had the opportunity to really learn and understand the directorial and production elements of a performance. This class has allowed me to not only direct, but to design my own set, coordinate lighting and sound, and decide on and locate costumes and props.

“It’s been very enjoyable working with my talented and hardworking cast of student actors, each of whom has added significantly to the development of the difficult and complicated characters in the play,” Locascio adds. “I’ve most appreciated the final opportunity to work with Michael O’Neill. I couldn’t imagine doing all this as well as he does!”

O’Neil’s play, English Made Simple, a comedy, centers on two young people at a party who are looking for more than just small talk, he says.

“They discover that the English language is not so simple and show how ridiculous people sound when they try to say what they mean, but fail miserably, or say anything just to keep a conversation alive,” O’Neil explains.

“Directing is a lot of fun and very interesting because I get to create a picture of my play in my head, but the challenge is to put that picture on stage,” O’Neil continues. “Working with student actors is great. Their ideas are constantly flowing and make the production even more exciting. This theater class has been an amazing experience that’s forced me to really think and challenge my creativity. I’m usually on the acting side of theater, but now I know the many jobs that a director faces. They’re not easy, but they are a lot of fun.”

Categorized in: Academic News