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Four undergraduates show off their directing chops

BY COURTNEY SPEARS | OCTOBER 01, 2009 7:20 AM

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Jackie Alamillo rushed into the Theatre Building lobby 30 minutes before rehearsal with a bowl of pasta and a bottle of Coca-Cola.

“Sorry if I’m late,” she said with a big smile on her face.

Alamillo and three other UI undergraduate directors have spent hours each day in the building for the past four weeks, preparing for the Undergraduate Directors Festival.

The curtains will go up tonight for the annual event, which features four plays of 15 to 30 minutes directed by undergraduates, each performed on all of the nights in the festival’s four-day span. It is one of the only programs in the theater department that focuses on undergraduate work.

“There are other directing opportunities here in our department,” said Alan MacVey, the supervisor of the festival and head of the theater department. “What’s different about this one is that it’s a bridge between a class, where they’ve directed short scenes, and directing a full production.”

Preparing for the event has been in the works since last spring, when directing hopefuls applied, and a faculty committee chose four. Those applying were required to have taken at least one directing class and proven themselves to be outstanding students.

The directors the faculty selected for this year’s festival are Alamillo, Matthew Benyo, Alex Iben, and Alex Scott. While the directors are supervised and given some feedback, MacVey said, the productions are left to the students for the most part.

“It’s definitely their work,” he said. “The only way you learn how to direct is by directing.”

All of the directors have at least some experience, whether in a university course or from past opportunities. UI senior Scott has directed two plays in the past and has done some film direction as well.

“[The festival] is a cool opportunity for undergrads, especially new actors,” the theater and cinema major said. “It’s a great chance to get to know people and sort of break into the department.”

The weekend presents audience members with an opportunity to view different directors’ takes on theater.

“I think it’s going to be a little bit of everything,” said Alamillo, a UI senior and theater major. “By going to one festival, you will see four different shows and four different styles of directing.”

Alamillo took the class Directing I last year and decided to apply for the festival after some influence by MacVey. Her production, “Check, Please,” marks her first effort at directing outside of class.

“I get to finally sit in the audience for once and look at this show that I’ve sort of created,” she said.

MacVey said this year’s festival is unusual because new plays will be featured, and two out of the four were written by students.

“If you’re interested in directing, there’s no better place,” he said. “You have accessible space, people, time, and money. Once you leave college, it is difficult to get all of that stuff — very difficult.”

The festival is invaluable for practice and experience as well, he said.

“Through this experience, you discover: A, do you like it? Because it’s hard,” MacVey said. “B, are you any good at it? And C, what is it that you’re good at and what do you need to improve on?”


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