Do you like dogs? Do you like cookies? What about Christmas? Do you like to laugh? Okay, what about crying? Finally, do you like good theatre? If 3 of your answers were yes, 1 was "um...what?', and the other was "is she trying to be funny again?", then I've got the show for you! The 9th Annual Original Play Festival is back in action and you have THIS WEEKEND ONLY to secure your ticket! Let's talk about it, and look at all my blurry pictures!
Student playwrights! Student directors! Student actors! A student run theatre company! So many students! Rutgers has a lot of those! Come see these amazing artists put on never-before-seen plays in our own little black box theatre.
The way it works is that plays are chosen by the OPF coordinator, students interview to be a director, and then hold auditions for the shows they're assigned. These directors have the unique opportunity to communicate directly with their playwright, and make their work come to life!
Tatianah Demande (Junior, English and Comparative Literature) talked to me about her awesome relationship with the playwright of her show, Com Down. "Fortunately for me, I got the work of someone I’ve known for a while, Julianna Pica, and was familiar with. Pica and I were immediately on the same page. From the beginning she told me, do what you think is best, I wrote it but you’re staging it. There was a level of trust and respect there that I think is really important when you put on someone else’s work. If I ever wanted to change something, I would explain it to her and she either revised or explained to me why a change like that would take away from the piece. There was an open dialogue that allowed the production to be the best that it could be."
A lot of times when I would be in english class or some sort of music rehearsal, the teacher would say, "this is kind of vague, but we can't really ask the writer or composer what they meant because they're dead!" so I'd imagine it's really cool to have have questions for a playwright that is easily accessible and breathing!
As I've said time and time again, Cabaret is attracts some of the most talented people ever. No exaggeration. And this cast is no different - these 5 shows make up a cast that wowed me right from when the lights came up to the bows at the end. With such complex characters, people might wonder what these student actors do to get themselves in character.
Colee Bellmay (Sophomore, History) is an OPF veteran, and gave me a little insight into how she prepares for her role. "I crafted my character around people I know and my relationship with my parents, and also the relationship that my mom had with her mom. Using experiences and conversations that I’ve had with these people has definitely allowed me to connect with and craft my character." Fun fact: her show made me shed a super dramatic single tear. Watch out for her, she's incredible.
Nathan Olmeda plays 2 very different roles in this production, and does a great job at both! "Both roles are very fulfilling in their own way! By playing two roles, I get to expand my range of emotions and feelings in a way that I can't in a normal production."
Watching casts work together as a unit is something I find so special about theatre. This show's got it. Come see it.
First time directors probably had a few things they were worried about on their minds, and I decided to e x p o s e them - just kidding. But they really were all ready to comment on their growth as a director.
Maya Mitterhoff (Sophomore, Music Education) directs Syzygy and does a rockin' job at it. However, she had her doubts going in. "The most challenging part was taking the lead for the first time. I've spent a lot of time working on being a good cast member and performer, but this was totally new to me. Now, it's not so scary. I know it's all about teamwork and flexibility and risk taking. And it's a very exciting thing, that I definitely want to do again."
Tatianah was worried about getting the show to it's final product. "It was weird. Like you already kind of know what you’re doing but at the same time you have no idea and you always question whether you’re making the right choices and if it’s going to come out right. Getting over that fear and always wondering what the playwright will think or if the audience will enjoy it was really hard. I think I got to the point where I just had to ask myself if I like it and was I okay with what I created because at the end of the day it was my work and the efforts I made with others. That was what really helped me get over that fear and gave me a different perspective on what I was doing. And I f-ing love it."
David Novis (Junior, English and Political Science) said, "I actually didn't choose this show. The way the process went, I just applied and had a play assigned to me. It was sort of daunting at first, considering I didn't know right away if I could do the type of show well and was scared I'd screw up somebody's work, but luckily they paired with a scene so good it was hard to mess up." He also thinks he's he's hip with the cool slang in his next answer - "The most challenging part was trying to figure out how to hit those hard emotional beats right (and also teaching Benji how to play solitaire)." (***spoiler alert!) (I think it's too late for it) (my b) Come find out what he means with his fancy youth lingo!
Cabaret is a place for opportunity. These directors and actors spent the last several weeks working together and growing together as artists. I talked to a bunch about what they got out of the OPF experience.
"My favorite part of this experience is the people I got to work with," says Tatianah. "You get support for every side of it. Someone was always there when I had a question or needed help whether it was lights or costumes or even just coming with me to Target. Working with people in the same boat as me as first time directors, and sharing those experiences really helped. Elizabeth, Jill, and Ajit were a wonderful support system. And words can’t even describe how awesome Emily and Thomas were. You go into auditions hoping for the best and the you hope you made the right choice. I got them and they pushed me to be better. This was my first time directing and they were already such talented actors. We made a great team. We all did.
There's no way people won't believe we've got great people in this show, because that's all anyone could talk about!
"My favorite part of being in OPF is being surrounded by people who put their all into the work they’ve done to help OPF become a memorable production for the people involved and for the audience," raved Colee. "Just by witnessing all of the hard work that everyone’s done for the production, I get inspired to do the best that I can to help make OPF a success and a wonderful experience."
But of course, these people are here to perform, and Maya's favorite part was putting all the pieces together. "My favorite part has definitely been being able to watch it come together during tech. These plays are all so great and watching them for the first time was a wonderful, magical thing. I'm so proud of the other directors and actors, in addition to my own actors of course. Storytelling is definitely something everyone in OPF deeply cares for, and I must say we do a damn good job at it."
Are you convinced yet? Please say yes omg
Come see these amazing Rutgers students put on a show in our little black box theatre on the street corner. This is the only weekend to do it! See you there :)