Imagine staging a play as a romantic comedy murder mystery. Now imagine doing so while earning college credit. Instead of taking tests at a desk, students in Fundamentals of Dramatic Production (SP 308) were tested in their roles as directors, makeup and hair designers, costume and set designers, lighting and sound technicians, and stage managers when they mounted M’Liss, My Western Miss.
Auditions for Dramatic Productions (DP) are held early in the semester. In the Experimental Theater of the Visual and Performing Arts building, students, staff, and faculty present prepared performances of poems, snippets of favorite scenes, or monologues for a small table of directors and instructors. Once the roles are cast, practices begin. The next several weeks involve the students of SP 308 working closely with the actors, building the set, tailoring costumes, and designing promotional materials for ticket sales ahead of the four performances.
Speech faculty Danielle Ledoux has been an instructor for SP 308 for two and a half years. “With this class, I try to prepare [students studying speech or performance studies] as much as possible for whatever comes next after graduation—whether that be a career, grad school, or ministry,” she said. “For potential speech students, DP provides the most interaction in a theatre setting. Most students leave DP realizing where their niche is in the theatre—directing, acting, or some job behind the scenes. Regardless of where interest lies, DP will not only enhance your current talent but also develop others.”
In M’liss, the small Western town of Smith’s Pocket is shaken when the old miner George “Bummer” Smith, played by PCC staff Mike Goza, is murdered in The Roaring Dog Hotel. What was a plot of mistaken identity to claim a widower’s fortune becomes a murder mystery where the characters must discover what audience members already know—who’s the murderer? “It’s really a character study into the true nature of all the townspeople in the humble town of Smith’s Pocket—who is a real friend, and who is hiding true motives,” said Ledoux.
Holly Collier, an admissions counselor in Admissions, admired the encouraging spirits of M’liss directors Kiersten Augst (Sr., NC) and Grace Goldston (Sr., FL). “Practices were invigorating. The directors reminded us of the importance of keeping up the energy both on and off set,” she said. “Everyone was ready to help enhance our characters with lights, sound, set design, props, costume, hair, and makeup!”
The cast of M’liss enjoyed working with the class of students as they pulled together to put on a small, well-crafted production. “Working with SP 308 has been really fun and truly an amazing experience. Each person has a special job for the production,” said Mike Goza. “To see each student have a part in the play and working with each other has made this production very fun.”
For senior Karis Dewan (PA), portraying innkeeper Mrs. Moffits in M’liss was her last role before graduating this December. “I have loved being involved in DP as well as others productions at PCC, and I want to encourage anyone who is even slightly interested to audition! You will not regret all of the amazing experience and friendships you will make,” she said.
Audience member Lucas Ploszaj (So., CT) enjoyed the spirited and colorful performance. “As someone who has formerly acted in DP, I appreciated the work that I know went into this production. I was also impressed by how smoothly they handled the entire two hours of the production,” he said. “[The DP class] took an older script and breathed life into it, creating a very enjoyable performance.”
Although the cast of M’liss was made up of many veterans of PCC’s theatre, students of any major can try their hand at becoming part of SP 308’s dramatic production cast. “I would encourage any student to invest at least one semester in DP,” said instructor Danielle Ledoux. “I’ve never heard of one person who auditioned, was cast, and regretted their decision.”