Harrison Burns—Staff Writer
The months before the Dordt production of Northanger Abbey contained a myriad of rehearsals. From the tech-only “dry run” to the multiple dress rehearsals where cast and crew practiced all the moving pieces together for the first time, over 40 people are involved in the process of performing the show.
Leading all these rehearsals and design meetings was director Laura Andersen, who guided the production from picking the script to the final performance on March 2.
Andersen is a theatre professor and Technical Director of the Dordt theatre program. She teaches many of technical theatre classes including scenic, lighting and sound design. She oversees the design aspects of each show performed by Dordt, often advising many of the individual student designers every semester.
Her connection to Dordt traces back to when she attended the college as a student and studied theatre in the same program she now teaches. Before graduating, she directed a children’s show called The Somewhat True Tale of Robin Hood for her senior show in 2006.
Since her hire in May of 2013, Andersen has solely focused on the technical aspects of shows. However, she launched into directing the 2019 spring mainstage when the opportunity opened.
“I started thinking, I haven’t directed in a bit, and I enjoy directing, so I posed the idea to the department and they said that would be great,” Andersen said.
After looking through scripts, she ended up choosing an adaptation of her favorite Jane Austen novel, Northanger Abbey, a satirical drama experimenting with British and Gothic stereotypes.
“I think it’s the mixture of the Regency and the Gothic that really grabbed me,” Andersen said. “[and Austen’s] sarcasm and wit that I feel is just a little bit more in Northanger than it is in some of her other works,”
The first official production meeting took place on November 12, almost four months before opening weekend. Those four months became one of Andersen’s busiest periods in her time at Dordt, juggling both her responsibilities as head director and Technical Director of the spring mainstage, while also teaching classes and helping organize the department’s move to a new building.
Auditions were the first major hurdle in this challenge, as it was Andersen’s first opportunity in the production to work with actors.
“I was really nervous going into auditions… having to lead this thing that I haven’t done in a while was a little bit nerve-racking,” she said. “The prayer that we said at the beginning of auditions was just as much for me as it was for the actors.”
As the production continued, however, these directing aspects ended up being some of the most enjoyable moments for Andersen.
Junior Michael Gaul was one of the actors who worked with Laura, playing Captain Tilney in Northanger Abbey, his first college show.
“I didn’t know much about what it took to put on a show to the scale of Northanger… Laura was very patient with actors, she had a good vision for how she wanted things to be, but she also allowed actor input,” Gaul said.
Laura’s months of collaboration, leading and planning finally paid off when Northanger Abbey premiered. The show had five performances at the end of February and received positive feedback.
“I left feeling really good about the time I spent watching it,” junior Caitie Fagen said. “The acting was all great and I enjoyed the dance scenes.”
After almost a year of preparing for the show, Laura celebrated the show’s close by hosting the cast party at her home after the last performance. She is looking forward to her future projects in the department and said she would love to direct a Dordt play again.