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BVU’s Student Directed Plays

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BVU’s Student Directed Plays

Buena Vista University Theatre

Buena Vista University Theatre

Buena Vista University Theatre

Buena Vista University Theatre

Christina Spillman, Contributing Writer

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Buena Vista University (BVU) put on not one, but two plays this February, and neither of them were directed by our resident Theatre staff. BVU’s University Theatre presented two plays by Edward Albee: junior communications and theater major Dernisha Hoover directed “At Home at the Zoo,” while senior theater major Chance Johnson directed “The American Dream.” 

The two shows were presented back-to-back on Feb. 14-16 in Anderson Auditorium as part of the New Vision series of student-directed plays. The two directors began rehearsing with their casts at the start of J-Term, and in the past two weeks BVU theatre professors Bethany Larson and David Walker joined the teams to aid in the design process. 

The student directors had full creative control of their shows from start to finish, and both Hoover and Johnson found a mix of creative freedom and challenges throughout the process. 

“Basically, from the first day, I was on my own until the last couple weeks,” explains Johnson. “I was kind of thrust into it.”  

“I’m glad that I was given this opportunity because I learned a lot about myself and how to grow as both a director and as a leader, and also as a person,” adds Hoover.  

Many of the actors were new to both the university theatre and BVU in general, though many came with experience from high school. When asked if there were difficulties in a new environment, the cast seemed to agree that it was simply a matter of adjusting. Most student actors agreed that working with Johnson and Hoover took little adjustment.  

“It’s just another directing style,” says freshman Grace Meyers. “[Johnson] was more competent than some directors I’ve worked with.” 

However, for returning actors with a bit more experience in performing at BV, working with directors other than Larson and Walker required a bit more adjustment. 

Sophomore Justin Forkpa explains that, “With a student director, you get more input . . . You have more responsibility.” 

The plays selected displayed writer Edward Albee’s absurdist style, pushing many boundaries with mature themes and explicit language. This can be a challenge in itself. The teams had different reactions to handling more adult content.  

“I think at first it was a challenge for me and my actors,” says Hoover. “It’s just a lot of very visceral things that might send the audience into, ‘Oh, I shouldn’t be seeing this.’” 

“I thought it was just different. Since I’m still a freshman, I just came from high school where we weren’t allowed to do any of that,” says freshman McKenzie Lansing. 

The most unique challenge of all, however, was left to first-year cast member Hunter Vasey, who was cast in both shows. In the 15-minute intermission each night, freshman make-up artist Sophie Hackbarth and sophomore Assistant Director Stacey Rosener worked backstage to quickly strip Vasey of one look and prepare him for the next. 

The entire cast and crew worked together to make it a collaborative creative process that was not only a learning process, but a bonding one as well. Their unique experience allowed for audiences to have a peak into the minds of the students in the dramatic arts at BVU. 

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