Arts & Events

Senior Theater Festival shows a new play every weekend

The Senior Theatre Festival is an annual festival of performances put on by students, featuring the Theatre major’s senior directors. This year, the festival, which began on April 4, will consist of Yellow Face, written by David Henry Hwang and directed by Jenna Gerdsen; Dog Sees God, written by Bert V. Royal and directed by Zoe Drew-King; True West, written by Sam Shepard and directed by Joseph Raya-Ward; How I Learned to Drive, written by Paula Vogel and directed by Gaby Gutierrez; and The Skriker, written by Caryl Churchill and directed by Sarah McKinley.

The plays cover a variety of themes, such as race (Yellow Face), death and youth (Dog Sees God), and familial tensions (True West). The performances will showcase the talents of not only the seniors directing the plays, but also the skill that Puget Sound actors hone in their studies.

When asked what was most rewarding about their work directing, the consensus was that working with the people was incredible.

Drew-King, director of Dog Sees God, said, “I have been so fortunate to see this process continue to be open and honest and collaborative, both with my production team and my cast-I find that what has been the most rewarding part of this process is the wonderful energy and willingness with which everyone has approached the play.”

McKinley, director of The Skriker, agreed, saying, “I find ensemble work to be incredibly rewarding and I have been fortunate to work with a cast of actors that are a pleasure to work with and contribute whole-heartedly to the process. I have found the collaboration aspect of directing to be the most rewarding.” The struggle of having “a cast of 15 actors playing over 30 roles,” as is the case in McKinley’s play, is well worth the rewards it brings to all those involved.

What drew the directors to their plays was also similar overall.

“My fellow thesis collaborators and I were drawn to The Skriker for its magical qualities, themes of feminism and environmentalism, and its intensely challenging script… It asks questions about gender, social values, and ecological responsibility. The play calls for a character to transform into a sofa, for toads to fall from another’s mouth, another is named ‘Rawheadandbloodybones.’ The Theatre Arts thesis provides an opportunity for students to challenge themselves, to do something wild. Churchill’s The Skriker is exactly that,” McKinley said.

Drew-King echoed those thoughts, saying, “When it came down to it, Dog Sees God presented itself as a work that I knew would challenge me in many ways-the script is jam-packed with difficult issues, problematic characters, and, at times, unrealistic circumstances. I saw in Dog Sees God truth and beauty, beneath the surface flaws, and I knew that if I could bring my vision for the play to life, it would serve as a challenging and meaningful thesis for me.”

They also had some advice for future Theatre majors, others planning to be involved in the Festival next year and the student body as a whole.

Drew-King encouraged “all manner of people to consider involving themselves in the theatre arts department in any capacity. There are myriad opportunities to do tech on our larger main stage shows or our student produced theatre with SIT, and STF is no exception. Even if you are only ushering a show or running the sound board it gets you into the theatre, making connections and getting to know more about something that may not have previously piqued your interest.”

McKinley gave advice more specifically for the directors. “Choose a play that is big enough to fail. Choose something weird or scary. STF provides a unique opportunity for students in that we are able to select the material we want to work with and have it supported and funded. You can do Shakespeare anywhere, anytime. So work with people you love to work with on something that you may not be able to do elsewhere anytime soon. This is the place to take a risk,” she said.

Whether you are a Theatre student or just a student who enjoys a good show, I highly recommend that you catch one—if not all—of the performances going on during this Festival.

The talents demonstrated will surely enthrall and entrance the audience, and show the skill that Puget Sound so delicately crafts in its students. The fantastic themes will make you think and thoroughly enjoy yourself. It will make you proud to attend a University that makes this type of immense talent possible.

All performances take place in Norton Clapp Theatre in Jones Hall, Fridays at 7:30 p.m. and Saturdays at 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.

Tonight and tomorrow, April 11 and 12, will feature Drew-King’s play, Dog Sees God. On April 18 and 19, Joseph Raya-Ward will present True West. April 25 and 26 will feature Gaby Gutierrez presenting How I Learned to Drive. And the Festival will end with McKinley presenting The Skriker on May 2 and 3. The Festival began with Jenna Gerdsen presenting Yellow Face on April 4 and 5.

Tickets for performances are available at the Info Center for $6 for Puget Sound students.