Difficult conversations
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Difficult conversations

Student-directed plays express joy and pain of human experiences

By Austin Lindner | Echo

Bold and brutal, heartbreaking and happy, theater is about expressing the diversity of the human experience. During this weekend’s student-directed plays, two senior theatre majors aim to portray this diversity in their stage productions, which cover a variety of complex topics.

This will be the first time directing a full-length theater production for both Claire Hadley and Haley Kurr. Each director’s cast began rehearsing full-time in February in order to prepare for their shows this Friday and Saturday.

Kurr chose to direct “The Dining Room” by A.R. Gurney. The play features commentary on the culture and familial complexities of white Anglo-Saxon Protestants in the northeastern U.S. “Dining Room” consists of 18 vignettes from the 1930s to 1980s, following more than 50 characters.

“Unlike the traditional experience in which the scenery changes around the characters, in ‘The Dining Room’ the characters change around the scenery, and in particular, the centerpiece of the show: the dining room table,” Kurr said.

The seven cast members will each play eight unique characters. The cast includes freshman Sarah Dodd, sophomore Paul Jacobson, juniors Ryan Ericson and Morgan Turner and seniors Zachary Cook, Lexie Owen and Lucas Sweitzer.

“My hope and expectation for the Taylor audience would be that they see a piece of their own memories at the dining room table,” Kurr said. “While the dining room table is a place where we gather for community, the environment can be isolating and uninviting. Ironically, this table is precisely the place at which the play confronts some of the deepest human needs for love and connection.”

Like “The Dining Room,” Hadley’s show also focuses on the dynamics of human connection. Her play, “’Night, Mother,” was written by Marsha Norman and examines suicide.

“Since this play deals with such a difficult topic—suicide—and seems to portray it in a positive light, I hope to remind Taylor that suicide is never the right option, but to also give the community insight into the mind of someone who is suicidal,” Hadley said.

The play focuses on Jessie, a middle-aged woman with epilepsy (played by sophomore Grace Foltz) and her estranged mother (played by junior Jessica Schulte). When Jessie announces one evening that she will kill herself by the end of the night, her mother struggles to come to terms and understand her reasons, while Jessie fights to maintain control of her situation. The play intimately discusses the issues of truth, lies, love and how people view circumstances from different views.

““Our life is a gift—we can’t waste it. I am not directing this play because I am pro-suicide,” Hadley said. “Rather, I am pointing out the fallacy of suicidal logic.”

Both plays run tonight and tomorrow. “Night, Mother” will be performed in the Mitchell Theatre at 7 p.m., while “The Dining Room” will take place in Rupp 101 at 9 p.m. There is no admission charge.

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