One of my favorite events Juniata has every year is the Liberal Arts Symposium, or LAS for short. Each year, classes are cancelled for the whole day, and students and faculty are encouraged to travel across campus and attend student presentations about work/research they have done during the year. There are a lot of different types of presentations, and most common presentations are often in the sciences. This year however, I was able to present my own work at LAS, with focus on the Theatre Department.
This semester, I decided I wanted to do an independent study with one of my professors, Leigh Hendrix, and I wanted to attempt to write a full-length play. I have written several short plays (10 minutes or less) throughout my time at Juniata, but I have never tried to write something as complicated and in-depth as a full-length play. I came up with the idea to write a murder mystery, because that is my favorite genre to read/watch. I’ve always loved crime shows and mystery novels, but I never realized just how difficult it is to write a mystery yourself! There is so much background work that needs to occur before one even starts writing in order to create a successful, fluid piece. Once a week, Professor Hendrix and I would meet to look at my writing progress, and map out the entire storyline of the play. I honestly didn’t think I would finish this semester. I know that it sometimes takes years for people to complete a play, and shoving this project onto my already packed work load was definitely difficult for me. However, a few weeks ago I managed to finish a first draft! As soon as I finished the draft, it felt like I had given birth! I had worked hard toward this goal that I didn’t think I would reach, and I did! Over the following few weeks, I printed out the entire script and edited it over and over again. I then recruited a bunch of my friends to aid in my presentation for the Liberal Arts Symposium.
Since I was just doing a public reading of half of the play, it was a less strenuous rehearsal process, since the cast only had to meet once the read through the piece before presenting it at LAS. My play has eight different characters, so I had to ask a lot of different people to be involved, but everyone did such a great job reading their character at the presentation! After the reading, my mentor facilitated a talk-back session, where I could ask questions of the audience and receive feedback about the process. My first question to the audience was: Who do you think did it? To my surprise, although the audience guessed five different characters, none of them had correctly guessed the killer! That was definitely a confidence-booster for me, and it showed me that I wrote a really great play. I received such amazing feedback from the students and staff and outside audience members who came to listen to the reading. It truly was an amazing moment of pride, excitement and joy to hear my words being read out loud, and receiving positive feedback from so many peers.
Although the semester is coming to a close, that does not mean my work on this play is done. For most, a play is never done. There are always changes that can be made. I hope to keep editing this play and make it longer and stronger, and hopefully be able to stage the show at some point next year! Overall, the Liberal Arts Symposium was such a great experience for me to present a project I had put so much effort into, and see how others reacted to it. I can’t wait to keep working on my play!
When I was twelve years old, I performed in Little Shop of Horrors at my summer camp. I knew nothing about acting, it was the “kids version” of the show, and I had a stereotypically bad New York accent. I’ve loved musical theatre my entire life. This show was one of the first shows I really connected with, and ultimately fell in love with. Fast forward eight years later, and here I am, starring in Little Shop of Horrors as a real, college production!
Since the Juniata Theatre Department typically puts on a musical every three years, I was so excited to get back into my “element” from high school. Although I love getting to experience and train with different types of theatre (i.e. Shakespeare, devised work, contemporary plays, etc.) musical theatre has always been my favorite type, and is ultimately my goal for after I graduate. For this show, we brought in Tara Giordano, an outside director from New York, Gabriel Gould (who is actually an English Professor here at Juniata) as our Musical Director, and Nate Dryden, a visiting artist who focuses on aerial and floor movement (I was able to work with him last year on trapeze!) as our Choreographer. As for our cast, this is one of the first shows where the cast is mostly non-theatre students. We have four freshman, two sophomores, two juniors, two seniors and a graduate student! It has been such an amazing experience to have so many different types of talented people working on a beautiful show.
Rehearsals have been really hands-on for us, as we have been taking our ideas for our characters and going into so much detail about them, how they move, how they speak, how they think, what they want, etc. It definitely takes a lot more than just reading words off a page to make a play really come to life. Since the show takes place in the 1960s, we have to play with different styles of dance and attire from that period (our costumes are awesome). When blocking scenes, even though our director ultimately decides how the scene should look, Tara was always willing to listen to our ideas and encouraging us to embrace our impulses. It’s been a really educational, beneficial, and rewarding experience working on this show and putting so much effort into the play we’ve created.
We have all been hard at work for the past two months memorizing, blocking, building, and singing our hearts out in rehearsal every day. While you’re in a production, it often seems like the actual performances of the show are ages away, until one day you wake up and realize you’re opening in a week! It’s been really crazy watching this show grow from a script in our hands to a real play on stage with a live band, a beautiful set, and soon an audience sitting in front of us! Little Shop of Horrors opens on October 21st at 8:00 PM, and will be performing on the 22-23rd, and 27-29th as well. Tickets are free for Juniata students and $20 for general admission! If you are in the area, and want to see a hilarious, bloody, romantic, and slightly terrifying musical, then I hope you come see the show!
For the past few weeks, my Performance Lab class (run through the Theatre Department) has been building our show, Solos, which opens in two weeks! Performance Lab is an incredible class that Theatre Performance POEs get to experience, where every few weeks different guest artists come to school to work on specific techniques or skills with us. We’ve worked on movement, scene studies, playwriting, and stage makeup, and learned what it’s like to be an actor after we graduate. I’ve only had two semesters of Performance Lab so far (as a Theatre POE we need five semesters), and it is definitely the best and most rewarding class I have taken at Juniata. We get to build so many different skills, work with incredible artists, and make outside connections in the “actor world.”
Recently, we have been working with Leigh Hendrix, an actor and theatre performer based in New York, who is serving as our mentor for our solo performances. Each student in our Performance Lab class has created a seven-minute piece, and is starring in it alone. The themes and stories are all incredibly different, and my classmates have worked to portray a multitude of diverse characters.
For my solo, I wrote a short play called “Out of My Head”, which shows the struggle of a girl who is arguing and sometimes being controlled by the voice in her head (which I believe everyone has had some experience with at some point). I will be playing the girl and the voice at the same time, switching back and forth between the two simultaneously. Playing two characters at once is something I’ve never done before, so I’m really excited to continue working with my play in rehearsals. I probably re-wrote my script a dozen times, always tweaking and changing little things here and there until I found a draft that I am very satisfied with. As an actor and playwright, it’s nearly impossible to find “the perfect draft” of a play because every time you read it, or listen to it being read, you find new things you want to change. It’s a really fun but strenuous process.
Solos are being performed April 20th, 21st, and 22nd in both the Suzanne Von Liebig Theatre and The Movement Studio. Since there are eleven students in our class, we split the group in half, so six will be performing in SVL Theatre, and five in the movement studio. I definitely recommend coming to see a performance, because it’s really amazing to see some of the work Juniata’s performers can do. If you want to see all of the student’s pieces, you’ll need to come two nights (since you can only be in one space at one time). My friends and I have worked really hard on these original pieces, and I can’t wait until we can show everyone!
A little more than a month ago, a sophomore student approached the Office of Student Activities and asked if it was possible to put on a production of Eve Ensler’s “The Vagina Monologues.” This is a collection of stories and monologues, turned into a play about women in every aspect. She was worried that it wasn’t possible, or it was inappropriate, or that it would be received negatively on campus. Yet she worked for one solid month, through organization, casting, rehearsals, marketing, and ticket sales to put on two performances on campus, and everyone loved it.
Julia McMurry, the student behind it all, wanted to put together the production in support of Huntingdon House, a non-profit organization in town that provides support for victims of domestic violence. She reached out to the student body and asked if anyone was interested in performing in the piece or working behind the scenes. I jumped at the opportunity to get involved, and auditioned (and was cast!). There were 18 women who were a part of the production, with three additional individuals helping with casting and rehearsals.
We quickly worked to put on the production in a month, working hard in rehearsals and taking time to reflect on what it really means to be a woman. Being in the production allowed me to meet students from all different backgrounds and POEs and really branch out socially. Not only was it an additional performance opportunity for me, but it was a completely different experience than performing in a show through the theatre department.
I’m so honored to have been able to be a part of this production, and the fact that it was entirely student-run and put together in one month brings me so much joy. We had a huge audience for both performances, and we raised $1,087 for Huntingdon House! I hope this becomes a Juniata tradition because I would love to be a part of this production again!
The spring semester theatre production of “Hamlet” opens this week and I am so incredibly excited. Not only are they performing this weekend and next, but they get to travel to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in Scotland in August! I was not cast in this show, but just because you’re not cast doesn’t mean you have to sit on the sidelines and watch from afar. I hopped on the opportunity to work backstage with the costume crew. This was my first experience working on the technical side of theatre, but my supervisors were appreciative, understanding and helpful with our tasks.
I was a little embarrassed to admit I didn’t know how to sew, but the costume designer for the show, Tara Webb, taught me everything I needed to know. I worked to sew buttons and labels while she made alterations to the actor’s costumes.
Another great part of working backstage is that I get to see the whole process of the show being put together. Many of my best friends have been cast in the show and it is
so amazing to see them killing it on stage! Not to mention, “Hamlet” is not an easy show! Any Shakespeare play has some serious memorization and text work that needs to be done before the play can even begin to be blocked in rehearsal.
“Hamlet” opens this Thursday, February 18th, and will perform the 19-20, and the 25-27th as well. There is a male cast and a female cast, and the casts alternate each night. I’m so proud of my friends for all of the work they’ve put into this show, and I’m so glad I can be a part of it, even thought I’m not in the actual show.
When I was applying to colleges, a student from the Juniata Enrollment Center called my house to talk to me about the school. I told her I was interested in Theatre and English, and she mentioned several different classes for each POE that she thought I would like. One of those classes in the English department was called Lift Evr’y Voice. It’s a class that organizes a coffee-house, celebrating the works of African American writers. It sounded amazing, but this semester I actually got to be a part of it.
The class met once a week, and we split up responsibilities for creating the event. One student was in charge of writing articles about the event to send out to the Juniatian and other local newspapers, another created flyers and displayed them all over campus, and others worked to recruit volunteers. We chose the theme “Music of Poetry” which incorporated black poets and black artists (we had some musical performances as well!).
Each student in the class (there were seven of us) had to perform something during the night, and any volunteer who wished to perform could as well. For my performance, my a cappella group, The Eagle Tones, performed “Put Your Records On” by Corinne Bailey Rae. We had over 120 people attend our event and everyone had a great time! It was so amazing to see this event come together in the way that it did, and the overall idea of celebrating black writers was very meaningful to me. I’m so pleased that I was finally able to experience one of the things that brought me to Juniata.
This semester, the Theatre Department’s main production is the Samuel Beckett Circus, which I have the incredible opportunity of being a part of. The show combines four Beckett plays, as well as different Beckett texts and circus acts. There’s music, trapeze, crazy creatures, magic, and some unbelievable performances by my fellow cast-mates. This is the first show I have ever been in at Juniata, and I have been having an amazing time throughout the rehearsal process.
Last year, I was very hesitant to be a part of the productions because I knew they would be time-consuming. I was right. I am constantly juggling assignments, rehearsals, running my own club on campus, and a social life, while still finding time to sleep, eat, and do my laundry. It’s definitely a lot to handle. However, having such a busy schedule has pushed me to become better with my time management, and to do as much as I can in the time that I have.
I have also learned so much from working with the different performers and my wonderful directors. They each inspire me to work harder inside and outside of the theatre. I’ve flown on the trapeze (which is something I would never have guessed I would learn in college), ran up stairs while hoola-hooping, and worked on some pretty tough scenes during rehearsals. I can definitely say I am a much stronger performer after being cast in this show.
It’s so crazy to think we open in two weeks, and I don’t know what I’m going to do when the show is over! The show will be running from October 22-24, and 29-31. If you get the chance to stop by the black box theatre, I would definitely recommend seeing The Samuel Beckett Circus! I promise you will not be disappointed!
Some people love their first year of college. Other people struggle academically, or socially, or may have an “off” semester. Last year, I rocked back and forth between liking school, drowning in work, and having a hard time socially, which made my first year at Juniata a little strenuous for me. However, I am back for my sophomore year and it has started out with a BANG!
I was lucky enough to be selected as one of the hosts for This Week At Juniata, a weekly web show about different events happening throughout campus each week, which is then sent out to students and posted on Facebook to gain more attention to events on campus. I have never had a job acting in front of a camera before, but I am a Theatre Performance POE, so this has been amazing exposure and a really great skill-building process for me! I have met so many people through working on the show, and have gotten so close to my co-host, director, producer, editor, cameraman, and boss. Each week we plan an outline for the show to be filmed on Monday, which is then released on Thursday. Although a potential script is written by the producer, with input from my co-host and I, a lot of the work is improv! Sarah (my co-host) and I are really comfortable with each other (even though she is a senior and I am a sophomore). We have so much fun goofing off, doing ridiculous things, and laughing on camera.
Working on This Week At Juniata has also helped me a lot socially. I tend to be very closed off when meeting new people, but now strangers will come up to me on the quad and tell me how much they liked this week’s episode, or that they love my outfit, or they think I’m hilarious. This feels incredibly weird, yet very flattering at the same time! I really cannot thank the Digital Media Studio enough for allowing me to be a part of such an amazing show. (They are also responsible for a lot of footage of events, creating videos for the Admissions Office and televisions around campus, and so much more behind the scenes work that I am not even aware of!)
I feel so much more supported by others around me now that I have this exposure to the entire Juniata community, and my confidence has skyrocketed as well! The hosts for This Week At Juniata change each year, so you never know, you may be selected to host in the upcoming years!
Attached is a link to our most recent episode, but you can check out all of our weekly shows on the Juniata Facebook page!