Teaching theatric techniques

Fall production will stage 8 of David Ives’ one-act comedy plays


Lily Vag-Urminsky

LEARNING AND REHEARSING. Dania Baig, right, demonstrates to Juliet Di Teresa, left, her character’s purpose while rehearsing one of David Ives’ eight plays that will be performed Nov. 1-3 in Sherry Lansing theater. Director and adviser Liucija Ambrosini said that the organizational complexity of the shows has taught the cast and crew the technical aspects of acting and theatre.

Priyanka Shrijay, Editor-in-Chief

Whether it’s meticulously running lines or screwing bolts into planks of wood to build stages, U-High thespians have been working for an hour and a half each day in addition to their weekend hours to prepare for their fall production, a comedic evening of one-act plays.

On Nov. 1, 2 and 3, U-High theater students will celebrate the plays of David Ives with their production, “IVES: Been Here Before.” Theater aficionados will perform eight one-act Ives plays, all comedies. Tickets will be $10.

When choosing the fall production this year, director Liucija Ambrosini combined her excitement about David Ives’ stage work with an opportunity to teach her new theater students about acting.

“Last year we had so many people graduate that I wasn’t sure how many people would be turning out for theater, but we had a very large tryout and we had a lot of people come, so I thought that this would give everybody more people a chance to be working on some acting stuff,” she said.

Mrs. Ambrosini added that the timing needs of the shows, the eccentric characters and the visual aspects, such as props and furniture, add a layer of specificity that teaches the cast and crew about the details and processes of acting and the technical side of theater.

Anna Schloerb, a senior, has a long list of U-High acting and crew credits to her name, and for this production, she will take on a directing role. Just as Mrs. Ambrosini intended, Anna took the Ives production as a learning opportunity.

“Directing is a process that you really need to learn as you go and find tactics to help your actors find characters on their own and not just give it to them,” Anna said. “They need to do the work and also that is the only way the character will be portrayed with authenticity.”

Anna elaborated on her directing experience, noting that she has learned to put herself in her actors’ shoes to more compassionately and effectively work with them.

“Since I’ve acted before, I know how difficult it is to memorize lines so I couldn’t get mad at him because it is really hard,” she said of one of her actors who was struggling with a monologue. “I tried to work in little chunks with him and repeat things over and over and kind of just drill it. I also know from experience that you sometimes just need to give it a break.”

One of Anna’s actors, senior Nicholas Merchant, has been acting since his freshman year and has performed Ives’s work before.

“He is a very unique writer because he’s able to be funny but in a very unique way,” Nicholas said. “It’s almost surreal — his writing. It has these very twisted unique ideas that I don’t think you see from other writers.”

In this production, Nicholas plays three different characters in three different scenes, each with a case of false identity.

“The first character I play is Edward Degas, the artist. I play a man who thinks he’s Degas. And so it’s a case of false identity. It’s a very fun, outrageous role,” he said. “The next role I play is a worker who thinks he’s Charles Lindbergh’s baby, so another case of false identity, and the final role I play is as Fifi, a gym teacher who thinks he’s a French woman and dresses in a dress.”

Tackling these complex, layered roles, Nicholas identifies who his character inherently is and then adds to his performance who the character thinks they are.

“Because it is a comedy,” he said, “I really do try to push it as far as I can to really develop the character in a very large, over-the-top way without sacrificing any of the truth below it.