Drama department anticipates student-led play

By Tina Scruggs – Staff Writer – cscrugg1@unca.edu

By Jorja Smith - Photography Editor Junior Olivia Medoff practices for the play Sorting Trash in the Belk Theater on Monday night.
By Jorja Smith – Photography Editor
Junior Olivia Medoff practices for the play Sorting Trash in the Belk Theater on Monday night.

JD Granade, a senior drama student, is directing the drama department’s first play this semester and the fourth main stage show in 14 years, “Sorting Trash,” which opens Thursday.

The main stage at the drama department consists of faculty and students working together. Sometimes faculty actors work with student actors. The one position they have not made available consistently is student directing, according to Laura Bond, program director of arts and ideas.

“We teach student directing, but typically we have faculty at the helm because they provide grades and it is a large responsibility,” Bond said.

According to Granade, the work load isn’t that much for him. He is taking a full load of classes, on the senior class board, and directing the play.

“It’s not very different from a faculty member who has a full load of classes as well as groups,” Granade said.

Granade said he is enjoying learning the responsibilities of being a director and facilitating communication between actors and designers.

“My favorite thing is also the most difficult. It’s just learning how much work the director puts in, realizing there’s always something that needs to be done and tasks to be accomplished. It’s difficult to fully comprehend,” Granade said.

Olivia Medoff, a junior drama student, said she enjoys working with Granade and seeing him take charge of the production.

“It started out weird, and it was harder to take him seriously immediately. He had to prove his status and assert dominance. And being an actor under his supervision is really nice. He provides lots of calming energy,” Medoff said.

Scott Walters, drama professor, said that what’s important about the relationship between faculty and students in the theater is that it isn’t really professional.

“In real life you’re all peers in the theater,” he said.

Medoff said that because they are peers, it’s sometimes easier to work through problems, and the process is sometimes quicker.

“Because he’s a peer, it’s easier to say what’s wrong. It’s not an equal field with a faculty director, so it can be more intimidating,” she said.

Walters said that he has so much trust in JD that he has not yet attended a rehearsal. The project came from a class last year. He said he heard from students that it was organized and competent.

“They really wanted to do it themselves without us hovering and giving lots of advice so they could make their own decisions and see how it works out and actually learn from the process,” Walters said.

According to Medoff, there are trade-offs when working with either faculty or students.

“With faculty, they’re imparting their experience and their wisdom. They’ve been in different types of shows, so you automatically have faith that they’re equipped to handle certain issues,” Medoff said.

Walters said there is more of a give and take with a student director.

“With a faculty director, you rely on them more for instruction. With the students, there’s more give and take. ‘I have an idea,’ versus waiting to be told,” Walters said.

Granade said he welcomes ideas and input from his actors. He lets them try things to see if they feel right, and then gives his input, and they decide whether or not they want to keep it.

“It’s sometimes a challenge to know whether or not to trust decisions made outside of the theater. When to let people explore, that it won’t affect the integrity, and letting them run it, or deciding to change it,” Granade said.

According to Bond, actors sometimes develop bits organically.

“It depends on the actor and the show, but some people come to the table with a lot of ideas and development, have solutions, and are very open,” Bond said.

The theater welcomes anyone willing to perform, Bond said.

“Our theater is open to everybody; any acting classes, any level. Sometimes you can give someone a word that clicks and they can just ride it. You play with who you have,” Bond said.

Alex Bernatzky, a freshman drama student, said that JD gave him lots of trust that he didn’t expect to have.

“I sort of thought I’d be in the back, being quiet, but JD hauled me out to the front and told me to go nuts,” said Bernatzky.

Granade said there have been moments of frustration, but they were able to move past them, and, according to Granade, directing comedy is very difficult.

“In some ways, it is as serious as drama, maybe more so. It’s deep and there are more levels. It’s hard to know which of the funny moments to bring out,” Granade said.

Bond said the play was exactly where it should have been when she watched it for the first time.

“At the design run through, two weeks before opening, it’s sometimes hard to watch for the director because you see how much there is yet to do. But they’re off-book, there wasn’t too much stumbling, and now they just need to work on the dynamic flow and timing,” Bond said.

Granade said that his faculty advisers have been really great. As requested by the students, they stayed out of the process and allowed the students free reign.

“It’s their theater and we wanted their support without their input,” Granade said.

According to Granade, the professors exceeded in keeping their promise.

“They were so great I had to remind them that they were welcome to come watch. I heard they were wondering about the process, so I sent them an email,” Granade said.

Medoff said it helped Bond came to see the play.

“With comedy it’s so important, it raises the stakes on all of us and reminds us that people are going to come see it. It shook us up a bit,” Medoff said.

Bernatzky said it helped having an audience because they wanted to be sure whether their bits were funny or not.

“We were making jokes and there were just crickets. Literally, we had a cricket in the theater. And if we only hear crickets, it makes us a little self-conscious, like, was that really funny? You gain power from your audience, it makes you want to do more,” Bernatzky said.

Granade said the play is farce, which means it is an extreme comedy and tends to be more physical.

“I know that we can do it and it’ll be awesome. It’s like I’m riding up a roller coaster, and there’s anticipating building up to opening night. I’m just going to let it happen and enjoy the ride,” Granade said.

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