A tale of two stages
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A tale of two stages

Two student-directed plays take Mitchell Theatre this weekend

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Freshman Lizzy Doty and senior Zachary Cook star in “Woman in Mind.”

By Grace Hooley | Contributor

The stage is set, the actors are prepped, and Grace Bolinger and Andrew Davis are ready to reveal their newest production.

Juniors Grace Bolinger and Andrew Davis are each directing a play for the Directing 432 class capstone project. Managing and artistic director of Taylor Theatre Tracy Manning teaches the class the techniques and logistics of theatre directing.

“I am learning a lot about how I don’t have to be perfect on my own right now, and I need to take (Manning’s) guidance, advice and direction in learning how to direct other people,” Bolinger said.

Within the class, the students guide each other by critiquing one another’s plays and helping to create scenes. Students also gain awareness of the close relationship between acting and directing.

“Acting has always been my number one passion in theatre. This has taught me how much I really do love directing and how acting and directing really coincide with one another,” Bolinger said.

Bolinger is directing “Woman in Mind,” and Davis “Agnes of God.” Both chose from a list of plays recommended by Manning. Fifty students auditioned for their plays in the fall.

“Woman in Mind” follows main character Susan, played by freshman Lizzy Doty, as she copes with two distinct realities that begin to converge near the end. Reality one is what Bolinger calls the “actual reality,” with junior Paul Jacobson playing Susan’s husband, Gerald, senior Maggie Plattes playing Susan’s sister-in-law, Muriel, senior David Stallard playing Susan’s son, Rick and senior Zachary Cook playing Susan’s doctor, Bill Windsor.

Reality two is what Bolinger called the “dream reality,” with senior Evan Koons playing Susan’s husband Andy, freshman Anna-Kaye Schulte playing Susan’s daughter Lucy and senior Taylor Eaton playing Susan’s brother Tony.

Bolinger describes the first reality’s characters as opposites of the second reality’s characters. The theme is based on “confusion in the madness” and identity, according to Bolinger.

“It is a comedy, but it also deals with a really intense psychological issue as well,” Bolinger said.
“Agnes of God” is about a novice nun who gives birth and claims the baby resulted from a miraculous virgin conception. The infant is found dead, and the psychiatrist and Mother Superior clash over whether Agnes is telling the truth throughout the investigation, with senior Charnell Peters playing the psychiatrist, junior Jessica Schulte playing Mother Superior and sophomore Sarah Davis playing the title character, Agnes.

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Senior Charnell Peters and sophomore Sarah Davis star in “Agnes of God.”

The play explores the themes of confronting science with faith and faith with science, according to Davis.
“‘Agnes of God’ was logistically attractive because of its small cast and potential for minimalism, but I was particularly pulled to its sharp dialogue and challenging content,” Davis said. “The play speaks to the universal desire for the miraculous to be both true and comprehensible.”

Bolinger and Davis have both faced challenges in directing and actors.

Bolinger was challenged with her tendency to give the actors too much information, and her actors struggled to remember their lines. Davis dealt with how to get his actors comfortable with the intense subject matter of the play.

Both directors managed to succeed despite these challenges.

“I really want to portray the story well, and I really want my actors to learn something through the story,” Bolinger said.
The plays will be performed in Mitchell Theatre and are free to the public. “Agnes of God” runs Friday and Saturday, March 4 and 5 at 6 p.m. “Woman in Mind” runs Friday and Saturday, March 4 and 5 at 8:30 p.m. and Sunday, March 6 at 8 p.m.

“When delivered honestly, the presence offered by theatre has an especially unforgettable quality to stick with someone,” Andrew Davis said. “Great art shapes our subconscious, and a great play has the power to influence choices, conversations and (finally) culture for generations to come.”

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