Amid the hustle and bustle of the semester, a certain class was working hard to provide moments of comedy and casual fun in the Experimental Theater. Students in SP 307 took over the stage for one of this spring’s Dramatic Productions (DP). Throughout the hour-long show’s variety of ten-minute performances, audiences laughed, sorrowed, and empathized with characters they had met only moments before.
This semester, SP 307’s production focused on the little things in Tell Me a Minuscule Story, which featured snippets inspired by The Borrowers, Little Women, and stories such as “The Three Little Pigs” and “Little Red Riding Hood.” In between each segment, the cast of Horton Hears a Who! commandeered the audience’s attention during transitions, giving the casts of the longer plays time to trade places backstage.
“This is a production by students, for students. Everything from lights and sound to costumes and makeup were all done by students,” said Zach Vance, instructor of SP 307 (Introduction to Dramatic Production). “When we are coming up with the theme, we will generally try to associate several potential stories with each adjective. In the end, the theme is given to the directors and they choose a story that they want to tell with the theme in mind.”
The first step was to choose a play that fit the chosen theme. Joseph Lamb (Jr., GA) chose “Jack and the Beanstalk,” using the small hero to encourage audiences. “I wanted to pick a story that would inspire the audience to think positively,” he said. “Jack’s arc from pessimism to positivity was very important to me, because I wanted the audience to come away from my production with the realization that ‘it’s going to be okay.’”
For any play to come together, the student directors required the assembly of a diverse group early on in the semester—the cast! “One of my favorite things about Dramatic Productions is that anyone can be involved,” said Blake Ferrell (Sr., NC), who is both co-director of Horton Hears a Who! transitions and the lighting designer for the DP. “Working with students who do not have a performance/speech background has been such a wonderful experience because they come to each rehearsal with such a willingness to learn and to improve. One of the best parts is watching students of all backgrounds come together to create one unified story.”
Sarah Brown (Jr., KY) has been cast in a DP before, but during this experience as co-director of “Three Little Pigs,” she found how vital the position can be. “Directing and acting, while both are working towards creating a wonderful production, are very different,” she said. “As an actor, I always felt like I was representing my director and their hard work. But now as the director, I realized that it was my responsibility to equip my actors with the skills and comments in order to tell a story that the audience would love. One of the best things to hear as a director is, ‘I cannot wait for next DP.’”
“Before my actors go on stage and perform for the audience, we ask God to give the actors the strength and energy to effectively communicate the story and that Christ might be seen in them,” Sarah continued. “When I was in DP, my director did this with our cast, and I decided that I wanted to keep the tradition going. Everything we do as Christians is through God’s strength and to glorify Him, even in theater.”
Hannah Tabor (Sr., FL), who is studying youth ministry with a speech emphasis, appreciated the variety of skills that co-directing in SP 307 made available for her to use in ministry. “I’ve learned that there is A LOT that goes into [putting on a DP], and it has made me excited to prayerfully direct for a ministry of some sort in the future!” she said. “I’ve loved getting to see this side of the College and can’t wait to put this speech side together with my biblical studies in the future!”
As a senior studying political science, Nathanael Finneran (CT) stepped into the world of DP when he auditioned, getting cast as Jack in “Jack and the Beanstalk.” “The most challenging part of preparing for this play was getting in the vocal mindset of the character,” he said. “He is distraught, worried, and feeling defeated by the problems that life has thrown towards him. . . . Performing in DP has been so much fun! From seeing the interactions of the characters, to adding in lighting and sound effects, seeing the whole production come together has been amazing. I really wish I hadn’t waited until my last semester to do a DP!”
Audri Talbert (Jr., IN), who played Hazel, the oldest of the “Three Little Pigs,” enjoyed her past experiences in DP, and this semester was no different! “Some of my best friendships have been through DP, and for sure, many of my most treasured memories from school have been in the Experimental Theater,” she said. “I was a little surprised by how many new people there were (people who have never done a DP before), but everybody has worked together so well, especially with some of the changes to accommodate for COVID guidelines.”
As busy as the student production staff, directors, and cast members may be, participants leave with new friends, irreplaceable memories, and several successful live performances! “It is a whirlwind of a class,” said Zach Vance. “It’s a unique experience where students can directly apply what they are learning quickly. [And for the cast], it is an opportunity to try something outside of your general field of experience.”