Students in the UI undergraduate theater program show off their directing techniques


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Creating a festival put together by four directors with different ideas, with plays ranging from comedy to heavy rock shows, is the challenge for UI theater students this weekend.

The Undergraduate Directors' Festival will showcase one-act plays at 8 p.m. today, Friday, Saturday, and at 2 p.m. Oct. 2 in Theatre Building Theater B. Admission is $5 for the general public, free for UI students with valid IDs.

Director Mark Smolyar chose to take an abstract approach for his play "Mastodon Juan."

The play is a cautionary tale that blends the legend of Don Juan and the extinction of the mastodons, while including a very heavy-metal punk vibe as the veil for the story, Smolyar said.

"The one thing I was going for while directing the show was to make it more of a concert rather than a play," the senior theater student said. "So there's a lot of music and choreography, because I wanted to make it as big and flashy as possible. There's a lot of excitement in it."

"Mastodon Juan," written by graduate student Katharine Sherman, gives Smolyar a lot of freedom.
"For one thing, the script itself has a very metal vibe, and there's a lot of theatricality and opportunities for musical moments," Smolyar said. "But I also think what better way to tell this tale of caution than through music."

UI senior Josh Raheim is also using a piece from a playwright student at the university.
"American Pride," by Levi Smith, follows the story of a Vietnam War veteran who has lied to a reporter, and the reporter is now being sued.

"American Pride" is the first play Raheim has directed at the university, and he hopes to make people look at the truth instead of believing everything they hear.

"The initial process has been fairly smooth, but being a new and young director, my biggest challenge has been the logistics of being director," Raheim said. "But the artistic part has come really naturally and fun."

Also new to directing is UI senior Kaitlyn Busbee. Having an extensive film background, she has mainly focused on acting in the department, but with this festival, she realized she could cross over to directing.

"You are looking at the play as a whole but also all possible angles imaginable," she said. "It's a lot of just feeling it out in the moment and using your intuition."

Busbee's play, "The Raunchy Dame in the Chinese Raincoat," tells the story of Gino and Harry, the classic Hollywood buddy-film couple.

They are offered $1,200 to watch over a rug for a night, and the story gets more complicated as they decide to open up the rug.

"The show is absolutely about telling stories and the characters are so full of energy and very distinct," Busbee said.

The last play, "Medusa's Tale," directed by Emilia Hodges, tells the tale of how Medusa became a Gorgon.

The play is a comedy, but it also includes tragic elements that will be revealed at the performance. But what really drew Hodges to the play was the interesting mix between styles.

" 'Medusa's Tale' has a heightened style of Greek theater and then a contemporary style that kind of brings the whole thing down to earth," said the UI junior. "It uses Greek myths and characters to talk about more contemporary issues."

Hodges hopes that the audience sees her vision while watching the play.

"All directors' dream is that what they see in the shows comes through to the audience," she said. "But if nothing else, I hope the audience just enjoys the story, because it's a great show."

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