Elizabeth Helmkamp and Ashley Huizinga—Staff Writers
This Spring semester, students of the Dordt Theater Arts department will be putting on the student-directed plays “Eurydice” and “Lilies on the Land.” Senior Annie Sears—double majoring in Theater and English—is the director of Eurydice. Senior Alex Rexford—double majoring in Theater and History—is directing Lilies on the Land. Both shows will serve as their respective capstone projects for their Theater majors.
“[Eurydice] is a classic Greek tragedy, but the way that it’s told is not classical at all. It’s very contemporary and very poetic,” Sears said. As the student director, Sears is focusing on creating a thematic meaning for recurring elements in the show. “For Eurydice, I’m leaning towards this concept of water… it’s essential to life… [and] tying the idea of water to the idea of memory. And memory is so, so essential to build your life upon.”
In the plot of Eurydice, the main character loses her memory when she dies and is washed through the river Lethe in the Greek Underworld. The initial inspiration for the play is drawn from the Greek story of Orpheus and Eurydice. In the myth, a Greek hero named Orpheus must travel to the Underworld to retrieve the soul of his recently deceased beloved, from whose name the contemporary play takes its title.
Lilies on the Land is a play based on true stories about women during World War II.
“A play about World War II women was right up my alley,” said Rexford. The play is based on a group of British women called the “land army” who kept many farms running at home while the men were off fighting. “[My first thought was] this is so cool,” said Rexford. “And it’s so nerdy and historical, and I love it!”
Both directors had comments on their thoughts regarding the significance of the productions. “It’s a little bit intimidating, just because it feels like my entire college career has lead up to this,” Sears said with a laugh. “It’s intimidating because I want it to be everything that I’ve imagined it to be, but now I have to actualize that. And so it’s scary, but also exciting.”
Rexford is also feeling the nerves and the excitement in the weeks after auditions and casting, as the schedule and production designs for the play begin to take shape. “It’s definitely a little bit scary, but also very exciting, because it’s something I’ve been interested in doing since freshman year.”
Student directors start by picking their plays far in advance. For example, Rexford picked her play in March of last year.
“It starts with just reading about a thousand scripts,” Sears said.
The goal of reading so many plays in advance is to “find stories that we are interested in, and ones that are actually feasible to do,” Rexford said. “And also to find something that is meaningful and has purpose, something you are interested in and passionate about.”
Both plays will be performed “in the round,” which means that the audience forms a ring around the stage, rather than all sitting on one side. Sears described how the presentation style “is really unique because Dordt hasn’t done a show in the round in a really, really long time… it presents all sorts of challenges for me and Alex as directors because we have to think about these visual images we are creating in a 360-degree fashion.”
Even while Sears and Rexford are juggling their own busy schedules, both students recognize that it takes more than just a director to put on a show. There are other students and faculty members in charge of costumes, hair and makeup designs, props, scenic designs, lighting and sound, marketing, and graphic design.
“I have an entire design team that’s on board, so they are helping me realize my vision,” Rexford said. “But it’s not just me telling them, do this and this and this, [instead] all the designers come with their ideas for how the show could look on the stage.” Rexford says her job as a director is to take all the different ideas and “make all of [the design team’s] different ideas work into this whole beautiful production.”
Last but not least, actors are also an important part of any production. Auditions usually happen after the first or second design meeting, according to Sears. However, this year the casting happened before meetings began.
“[Auditions] are probably one of the most difficult parts,” Rexford said, “because first you’re worried about enough people actually showing up to auditions—and thankfully there were—but then there was the problem of ‘oh I have plenty of people, but I have a small cast and now I have to decide who makes it and who doesn’t’ so that’s always hard and difficult.”
After initial auditions, a second round, called “callbacks” were held.
“Callbacks are always different based off each show, for my callbacks I didn’t do a lot of script readings for particular characters, because my cast is very much an ensemble cast, so what I was looking for was how the girls worked together,” Rexford said. Having an “ensemble” cast means that there is no “main character” in a play, and every character is equally important.
Both plays will be performed in the Black Box Theater on campus, with Rexford’s Lilies on the Land to be held April 5-7, and Sears’ Eurydice projected for April 30-May 2, 2018.