Student Festival: British Invasion 2006


by Abbie Crane

Each spring semester, the theatre department produces a student festival put on by the seniors in the seminar class, which is a requirement to graduate with a theatre major. The festival has been going on for over 14 years and this year’s theme is British Invasion. Jennifer Nostrala, professor of theatre arts, oversees the entire production.

Nostrala said the students are in charge; she is just there for supervision.

“Technically [the student directors] have all the responsibility, along with the student company,” Nostrala said.

She is the connection to the budget, but the students are the creators of the show and manage the production.

Alongside this production, the seniors also must submit a research paper about their chosen playwright.

Senior Becca Jackson said the paper was more difficult than the project itself.

“The most challenging thing for me has actually been in doing the research paper for the class rather than organizing the festival,” Jackson said.

Jackson is one of four seniors working on this project and is the production stage manager, meaning she coordinates scheduling for the entire company and also calls cues for the show. The other three seniors are Erica Spiller, Victor May and Jenna Bruning.

Spiller, May and Bruning are the directors of the three short plays compiled to form the student festival. Spiller said she is in charge of light design in addition to directing her short play.

The purpose of this project is to get the students real life experiences.

“Our goal is to move them into practitioners in this discipline,” Nostrala said.

Spiller said she thought it was a great experience because it gives them real life experience, but also trains them in areas like set design and costume design.

“You can learn in textbooks but you can’t plan for some things,” Spiller said.

Jackson said she thought the best thing about the festival was finally seeing four years worth of work pay off.

“From the time you come in as a freshman, you know there is this big senior project,” Jackson said. “And now that I’m a part of it, I know it is a great way to finish out my career at Theatre Simpson.”

Spiller said it was challenging at times because there is a great deal of work involved.

“[The most challenging thing] is making sure everything comes together, but still focusing on actor coaching,” Spiller said.

Nostrala, Jackson and Spiller were all tight-lipped about what students can expect from the show.

“Three totally different short plays, all of which are good,” Spiller said.

Nostrala said the festival is a great thing to attend because the audience gets to experience three different short plays.

Jackson said even less about what can be expected at the festival.

“You’ll have to come to find out,” Jackson said. “You’ll definitely see some beautiful work by great contemporary playwrights.”

The seniors spend all semester learning about the playwrights as a part of their seminar class. The directors then decide which plays they are going to produce and cast them. They rehearse four to six weeks, and the festival is the result of their hard work.

Nostrala said the structure of the festival is the same as in years past; the theme is the only thing that changes.

Nostrala said each year the company changes and improves based on what they’ve seen from the festival in the past three years of being involved.

The festival will be held this weekend in the Barnum Studio Theatre of the Blank Performing Arts Center at 7:30 p.m. on Friday and Saturday and 1:30 p.m. on Sunday.