By Autumn St.Pierre, Contributing Writer
Recently, the Department of Visual and Performing Arts presented the play, “The Bald Soprano” by Eugene Ionesco, at the UMF Alumni Theatre. After long preparation and hard work, students and faculty came together to put on this unusual show.
With a runtime clocking in just under an hour, the show was performed for several audiences over St. Patrick’s Day weekend, beginning with an opening performance on Thursday.
After working three to four hours a day, five days a week for six weeks, the crew was ready to perform.
Director Melissa C. Thompson, Assistant Professor of Performing Arts, chose this specific show for a few reasons. “My specialty is experimental performance,” said Thompson, “usually the way I do it is through creating experimental work, or theatre.” She continued, “It dismantles some of the everyday rituals that we’re so involved in.”
Thompson is new to campus this school year and this was her first time directing a show at UMF. She wanted to get people laughing with this play.
Many preparations went into making the show happen such as; lighting, perceiving space, having the right props and the design of the scene, the casting process, and working with text with the actors.
The cast and crew did find that the experimental nature of Ionesco’s play presented challenges. According to a recent UMF press release, the play, which features the mannered interplay of guests at a dinner party rapidly descends into absurdity as the characters realize their language is not as powerful as they think. Presented with the challenge, cast and crew had to figure out how people would go through the motions.
“Whenever you direct something you can conceive with a vision of what the initial energy or look will be, and then it doesn’t happen,” said Thompson. She explained that you have to be ready to scrap an idea and come up with something new.
Thompson’s favorite part of directing the show was seeing people believe that when you say, ‘Hey I want to see your ideas and try them out,’ really seeing people embrace that. Thompson emphasized, “Having people going wild and being free is the best thing to see, such a liberation for them.”
“It was great to finally see this happen,” said assistant director Devin Gilman, a seven year senior and general studies major.
Gilman follows behind Thompson and assists with different things such as organic blocking, choreography, and helping translate the show. “I do whatever else Melissa tells me to do, in the most positive way,” said Gilman.
Gilman did find some things to be a challenge, such as getting the actors to learn their lines. “The show is very fragmented,” Gilman explained. It was hard to contextualize and they found themselves working with word vomit. He wanted to make sure the actors were comfortable.
Fifth year senior, Summer McCollough, has been involved in theatre for eight years. “This is my first and last ever main stage show at UMF. It was really cool working with these people,” said McCollough.
Some of the actors ran into slight challenges including memorizing lines, “because it’s an absurd play and it doesn’t make sense,” explained McCollough. “I’m speaking a word salad and you’re like, ‘Okay I guess that makes sense.’”
Because she’s graduating this spring, McCollough is happy to have been involved. “I’ve definitely had fun with this show and I’m glad I got to be in it.”
Anyone can audition for shows at UMF. There’s a theatre club on campus, Student Theatre UMF (STUMF), that people can join and a theatre honors fraternity that students need to be invited into in order to join.
The theater class, Space Lab, is also available and allows students to have different projects and jobs within a production and the proceeds go directly back into the theatre program.