How Do You Run A Student-Run?

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Emily Bernhardt Julia Rose Atkinson describes student-runs at Latin as an experience that “not only allows seniors to explore and execute their creative vision, but also gives actors a chance to experience theatre independent of main-stage productions.” Student-runs are considered an invaluable asset to Latin’s theatre program by many like JR, who is directing The Real Queen of Hearts Ain’t Even Pretty, premiering this spring. However, JR is not the only senior who is taking part in this difficult process. The option for students to direct their own shows is available to all Latin seniors after they complete an application. Deon Custard, another director, describes applying as “a sort of a tedious process with some questions that force you to think about the play you choose to direct.” For Deon, this meant “a lot of reading and thinking about the playwrights or styles of theater that [he] enjoys.” In the end, he decided on Private Lives, a play which he describes as “a comedy of manners from the early twentieth century.” The process of deciding on a play differed for Grace Coberly, since she eventually chose to direct a play that she wrote herself. She said that the idea for her play, You Know Because, came at a “pretty convenient time” and though “the writing process was rough,” it “payed off.” Grace had been on-and-off writing You Know Because since the summer, but it “all came together in the last month before auditions.” Writing her own script took tons of preparation, organization, and determination, but it came with its own benefits too. “I have the ability to change the script as much as I want, so if a scene doesn’t work, I can write a new one!” explains Grace. Since Grace’s characters were created by her, she knows them better than anyone which made casting “a breeze,” something her fellow directors did not seem to share. Unlike Grace, many student directors find casting a difficult process. Over fifty Latin Schoolers attended student-run auditions, which makes decisions more complicated. So, after watching everybody’s performances, the directors started off by making a numbered lists of their top picks were. All of the directors also took into consideration a survey regarding the possible actors’ time commitment, additional extracurriculars, and some of their overall preferences. Though Iz Gius, one of the directors of the upcoming play, Big Love, assured that the directors “tried to cast as equally as possible for the wants of each play,” she also admits that, “we definitely ended up making concessions or fighting over certain people, which was a good exercise in diplomacy.” Chris Chu, who is co-directing with Iz, realized that “having to choose the cast” for Big Love was “so much harder” than he expected. He stated that, “everyone brings something different to the table which makes the decision to cast so hard, especially when you go to school with people you may have to cut.” Though auditions and callbacks may sound hectic or stressful, Olivia Patinkin, a sophomore and one of the leads in You Know Because, said her audition was “professional, but not overwhelming.” She says that the student directors “were so welcoming and knew everyone personally, so it was less nerve-wracking and more fun.” Perhaps experiences like these are why many students who are new to the stage decide to try out for student-runs, like freshman Aoife Reynolds, who is excited to perform in You Know Because. Since the play will be her first at Latin, Aoife appreciated that her audition was “comfortable” and she felt “less pressure.” Iz is “really glad that it seems like more and more people (outside of the usual ‘theater kids’) have been taking a chance and auditioning these past couple years.” The styles of student-run rehearsals vary depending on the actors, directors, and stage managers, making each rehearsal a different, new experience. Iz agrees, stating that, “I’ve done a lot of student-runs during my time here, and each director and show has been run in such different ways.” Often, student run shows must comprise for rehearsal times or spaces because of mainstage shows like Sweeney Todd, but that does not stop directors from reaching their end goals. In fact, Chris believes that “what makes the [student run] rehearsal process different [from that of mainstage plays] is how creative students can get.” Past student directors have rehearsed and performed in unconventional spaces throughout the school, like the Loggia or the Library. The Arsonists, a student-run play that premiered last fall, set up space for their audience to sit on stage alongside them. The actors were “inches away from the audience the whole time,” which enhanced the themes and plot of the play. Directors also rely on support and suggestions from people like their actors and stage managers in order to bring together the final show. Deon already can see, “even one week into production, how creative actors can work with a script.” He states that seeing the multiple perspectives of his peers is “rewarding” and helps to bring his “vision” to the stage. Student run shows are an amazing way for Latin’s most committed performers to express a final creative idea on stage before graduating. This year, each play is different from the next. For example, The Real Queen of Hearts Ain’t Even Pretty “explores relationships between teenage girls in a way never seen on the Latin stage” and is “entirely female-driven.” Big Love, on the other hand, is an “incredibly physical piece” including “awesome music, fight choreography, parties, blood, tears, tomatoes, dancing, screaming, and messes.” Though all four upcoming shows are equally unique and exciting, each explores varying themes and storylines, which is why Latin students are encouraged to see each show. JR believes she “speaks for all of the directors” when she says that “we put our souls into the show, so they will undoubtedly touch you, if you’re a theatre person or not.”  ]]>