This past weekend on October 23 and 24, the Marilyn I. Walker School of Fine and Performing Arts welcomed audiences to their first ever ticketed performance, Mnemonic.
After covering the origins of the re-devised play in The Brock Press last week, we checked back in with the Advanced Studies in Theatre (DART 4F56) students to hear them reflect on their first independent production.
“When we first got the script and we all did a read-through together, we knew this was a huge show and a huge undertaking,” said Oriana Marrone, Mnemonic’s production Stage Manager. “We knew it would be difficult to properly convey what we were trying to get across in the show, and I think that at the beginning that was what made us all a little nervous and a little hesitant to take on such a huge project.”
The show’s six-week production was a daunting task for all involved, and members of both the acting ensemble and production team worked hard together to make it possible.
“I would say that we’re lucky that the ensemble, and the company in general, have so much trust in each other; we trust that someone is going to be there,” said Student Director Melinda Mohammed.
This was seconded by Marrone who said, “The tech process and the creative process are two very different ones, usually you get six weeks for each, and being able to mash all of that together in just six weeks was because we had an incredible team, and everybody really buckled down and made this happen in an incredible way.”
It was clear how proud the students were of each other after the first show had concluded, singing each other’s praises as they reflected on their first performance.
“What’s really cool about this class is that I feel just as connected to our tech team as I do to our acting ensemble, which is phenomenal, because it’s not like we just have an acting ensemble and just the tech people… this whole class works together really beautifully to help each other out,” said Eliza Anthony, one of the DART students acting in the production.
Marrone agreed stating, “I think it went incredibly well. Of course there are always going to be small things that you wish you could change, but as a whole this was by far our best show. It was cohesive, and from standing in the booth and watching the show I was immensely proud of what we put on tonight.”
The most surprising part of the night, for cast and crew alike, came moments before curtain, when they were informed that they had sold out their first ever performance, all 235 seats.
“We heard it backstage before the show,” said actor and second Student Director Josh Sanger. “They told us ‘Oh, you guys sold out’ and we did a little bit of a cheer backstage. It’s a great feeling… We’ve really made this play our own, we’ve really made this story our own, and the fact that we got to share it with this audience and that it was well received is amazing for us.”
Jeremy Knapton, another student acting in the play, interjected, “Having an audience helped a lot… Having an actual response to what you’re doing is extraordinary and I think it made a huge difference.”
When asked if they were proud of what they had accomplished that night, the group responded with a resounding “yes”.
“It really was such an incredible collaboration and a lot of people had two roles, so the people working in the acting ensemble were helping backstage, and were pulling costumes and props, and were helping with the build,” said Marrone. “So much of it was so collaborative and it just makes it feel like such an experience to be able to really know that you had part in everything that we put on stage today.”
Even after six weeks of preparation and debuting Mnemonic, the students still say that there is so much more to discover about the play.
“I remember the first rehearsal, we were so confused as to where this play was going, what was happening, what we were talking about,” said Mohammed. “And even up until yesterday there are so many discoveries we keep making with this play, there’s so much we could still do with it.”
Sanger concurred stating, “Just the fact that it’s an ensemble piece, the fact that it’s sort of a devising piece. We’re devising different aspects of the show and it’s constantly changing. In rehearsals we always find something new to try, something new to change, so it was constantly evolving.”
“There were things that were new just this show. We got notes yesterday saying ‘change this, change that’, so it’s not like we did this exact play yesterday, this was new,” added Anthony.
After seeing the play, the students of DART 4F56 have every reason to be proud of the performance they put on. From the perspective of an audience member, the entire play appeared to run smoothly and the acting was nothing short of impressive. It felt as though I was watching a full-scale Broadway play; the students truly did an incredible job.
Even with such sophisticated subject matter, the show still flowed very well. The transitions between scenes were well rehearsed and the acting never failed to impress; each actor in the ensemble played their multiple roles with ease, never missing a cue or breaking character once.
It was quite extraordinary how well the students handled themselves considering that, for many, this was their first times putting on a full-scale production, especially in such a short period of time. Their dedication to the project shone in the performances, you could sense just how much time and passion they had put into the play. I am very excited to see what they will come up with next semester.
The students also wished to extend their deepest thanks to the faculty involved in the production of Mnemonic.
“We would like to say a very important and huge thank you to Raby,” said the student directors. “Gyllian has been absolutely phenomenal, there is no way we could have possibly done any of this without her, and we really want people to know how much she means to us. And to all of the other professors who helped with this; Gavin Fearon, Roberta Doylend, Brian Cumberland, and Ed Harris, who were all so instrumental in helping us put this on. We really had amazing guidance throughout this whole process.”
Assistant Arts & Life Editor