The Lion's Roar

The magic behind the theater’s curtain

Jennifer Dettwiller

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Campus plays involve various facets before premiering for an audience.

Associate Professor of Acting and Directing James “Jim” Winter feels artistry by a collaborative effort of multiple people is the basis of a well put together production at the university.

“Good plays are always a collaborative effort,” said Winter. “You need hard work and artistry from all your different designers, your actors, your director, your crew people. Hopefully, you have a strong script as a starting point for all of this. Beyond that good teamwork with a collaborative spirit, the best production is always when designers, directors and actors are sharing ideas and working together towards a common goal.”

The casting process for students most commonly involves a monologue or cold read. Preparing for a production can present difficulties in different ways.

“During preparation, there are any number of variables that can be speed bumps in the process,” said Winter. “I like to think we generally overcome them, but sometimes, you have issues with certain personalities. Putting on a play takes a lot of time. Sometimes you might have an actor who didn’t realize what kind of time commitment it was or something happens in their personal lives, and you may lose personnel along the way and have to replace them.”

Professor of Theatre Design and Technical Directing Steven Schepker explained how the budget affects all aspects of the performance.

“The ultimate challenge is always budget, like how much money you have and how much you can spend, how much labor I have, how many people I have working for me, and balancing that and getting the most we can with what we have,” said Schepker. 

Schepker additionally explained that some set pieces have been recycled throughout different productions to save money. 

During performances, though, some things can still present issues or difficulties including not knowing how an audience may react to the play.

Winter discussed one of his favorite productions at the university, “Parking Lot Babies.”

 “It was my favorite because we overcame a lot of adversity with that play,” said Winter. “We competed with it at the Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival, and we traveled to New Orleans and performed it, and we did so good we were then invited to travel to Amarillo, Texas, to perform it. Along the way when we were supposed to take it to Amarillo, that was when the school started to get hit with those big budget cuts, and the school was no longer able to pay for us to bring the show.”

Despite these complications, the students came together to make it happen.

“The students banned together and raised thousands of dollars to tour the whole set and show to Amarillo and stay in Amarillo for a week and be able to perform it,” said Winter. “It was voted the best show at the regional festival and received seven national accommodations from the Kennedy Center. Our student playwright won a fellowship to study playwriting at the Kennedy Center in Washington D.C.”

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