Working in the theater is a dream for many, whether that dream is to be acting on stage, working behind the scenes on lighting, or any of the other myriad jobs necessary to bring a production to life.
But to get a true appreciation for the art, it’s important to understand as many of its facets as possible. That’s what 11 theater students at Flathead Valley Community College wanted to do when they took a course on directing this semester, which culminates at the 10-Minute Play Festival at FVCC, May 2-4.
The event is free and open to the public, with donations accepted.
This semester’s Beginning Directing II class spent the first half of the semester learning the technical and personality qualities that a good director should have in order to work effectively with many creatives in one space. The second half was dedicated to the 10-Minute Play Festival.
The students pored over hundreds of scripts that came in after a worldwide call for 10-minute plays, selected the script they wanted to direct, and then went to work auditioning cast members and producing their play.
Bryan Zipp, a theater student for the past two-and-a-half years, said the festival is the capstone to his education here, where he gleaned wisdom from his mentor and theatre arts professor, Joe Legate. Zipp said he’s been a part of every production at the FVCC theater in some capacity during his time there.
Normally a lighting designer, Zipp wanted to try directing to get a feel for the job, to see how it fit.
“This is going to be my last production with the college,” Zipp said. “I want to put as much passion into directing as Joe does.”
Anya Smith, who said she’s normally drawn to acting, said learning how to direct a theater production will make her acting skills better, because she will have a better understanding of what a director might mean when they ask something of her.
“It helps you realize the things that go into doing a show,” Smith said.
The plays range from comedies to drama, and even a few of both. Theater student Mica Riendeau’s play features a not-so-wise guy member of the mob going to confess his transgressions. Smith’s play is about a husband and wife duo deciding to take ballet lessons together.
Zipp’s play is “a tale of strife between two sisters,” and fellow classmate Desireé Hastings directs a story about Death getting distracted from his duties while in a chocolate shop. Christopher DeJohn, another directing student, takes on the story of a couple who think they won the lottery but don’t realize they’re sharing the prizes with thousands of others.
The student directors are acting in each other’s plays, along with FVCC theater students and members of the general public who auditioned. But they’re feeling the pressure also known to accompany the director’s chair: the buck stops with them.
“If there is something that’s wrong, we are responsible for it,” Zipp said, adding that this included light design, sound, and props.
And for all the personal growth they’ve experienced in this new challenge, the directors said they’ve also enjoyed watching the people in their plays find success.
“It was a really fascinating process of seeing how many things come together,” Riendeau said. “Not only are you finding personal growth, but you’re helping build others up too.”
“It was a cool visual change,” Hastings, usually an actor, said. “I love that acting aspect, so seeing it from this point of view really changes your whole perspective.”
The 10-Minute Play Festival takes place May 2-4. Shows start at 7 p.m. each night at the FVCC campus theater, located within the Arts and Technology building.