Bringing student directors into the Orangelight

Graphic by Jacob Fulton

This winter, Orangelight Productions is putting 21 students in the director’s chair.

Through their biennial Student-Directed One Act Plays (SOAPs), the drama club is giving juniors and seniors a chance to direct their own shows, either alone or in pairs. The tradition started years ago when students were looking for new ways to get involved.

“SOAPs started the very first year that I taught here, and it was the first time we had a graduating class,” theater director Cathy Swain-Abrams said. “We were looking for something to do for our winter production, and many students expressed that they wanted an opportunity to try directing, so we tried it out for the first time that year. It’s continued ever since.”

This year, the production is seeing its highest participation levels yet, with 12 different plays running over the course of the weekend.

“Some years, we’ve had as few as five plays; this is our biggest year and the most interest we’ve ever had,” Swain-Abrams said. “It’s made it difficult to schedule so many shows for performing, so we’ve had to limit them all to one performance each, but it’s great that so many people are interested in being a part of the production.”

With the opportunity to direct, comes an increase in autonomy, especially when it comes to selecting the one-act plays students perform.

“The students who direct have been very involved with theater, so they have some foundations already. They’re responsible for picking their own plays, though they have to meet certain criteria when it comes to length and cast. Their previous experience really helps them decide what show they’re interested in doing,” Swain-Abrams said.

Senior Haley Morman was an actor in SOAPs during her eighth grade and sophomore years, and is currently a co-director of “Oedi,” a comedic take on the tale of Oedipus Rex. Though this is her first time directing, Morman found the transition to be smoother than expected.

“Whenever I act, I’ve always had ideas for different parts of our shows, but being a director has given me the chance to really control the end result of a show. It’s been a fun outlet for me to see my ideas come to life on stage,” Morman said.

As first-time directors, students often have to learn as they go and adapt to create the best show possible.

“I knew I wanted the show to be funny, and I knew the feelings I wanted the audience to have. However, the route we’ve taken to get there has been a complete surprise. As we sit down and do every new thing, I’m always impressed, and it reminds me how much I love our show,” Morman said.

Because juniors and senior direct the plays, many cast members of the different shows are underclassmen, some of whom are acting for the very first time. For junior Corey Barr, who participated in SOAPs his freshman year and has returned this year to act in two shows, the one-act structure was a good introduction to performing on stage.

“SOAPS was my first acting experience my freshman year, and it was an easy introduction to the program at the high school. It was the same stage and production, but lower stakes because the show was shorter, which made it worth it for me to come back this year,” Barr said.

Since his freshman year, Barr has also acted in a teacher-directed production at the school and said that each directing style creates a different environment.

“It’s a different dynamic than it is when Swain-Abrams is directing. In some cases, the directors are in the same grade as me, or they’re people I’ve known from other things, so you have to learn how to adapt to the new relationship and take direction from them. It’s been enjoyable to work with my peers, and it’s provided me with a new perspective,” Barr said.

For Swain-Abrams, watching the student directors grow into their role after seeing them mature as actors is incredibly rewarding.

“It’s really cool to see them show what they’ve learned in theater in a new way. Watching them help other people gain the skills they already have and observing how they make all the decisions in a show is always amazing to watch. I love seeing how they gain a whole different appreciation of what we do together on stage,” Swain-Abrams said.

Because the structure is different from the fall and spring performances, the casts of each one-act play grow together in a unique way.

“You’re with each other for so long, and it’s such a small group, that everyone in your play becomes so close. You really create those bonds with your cast, which is amazing,” Morman said.​​

Performances for SOAPs are Jan. 25 - 27. Shows are at 7 p.m. on Jan. 25 and 26, and at 2 p.m. on Jan. 27. Tickets are $3 for one night or $5 for two nights and can be purchased during lunches Jan. 21 - 25 and at the box office each night. See the image above for a full schedule of shows.

For more information about the plot of each show, check out these interviews with their directors below.

Lockdown, directed by Alex Kropp and Miriam Pleasnick

The Bright Side of Being Blue, directed by Mia Lapointe

10 Reasons You Should Have Stayed Home Sick Today, directed by Alex Callis

Oedi, directed by Haley Morman and Sophia Reza

Appropriate Audience Behavior, directed by Emily Rogers

Orphan Train, directed by Malia McCoy and Chelsey Lenhart

13 Ways to Screw Up Your College Interview, directed by Easton Fendru and Lindsay Uhrich

Drugs are Bad, Directed by Cameron Goffin

Fire Exit, directed by Caroline Bobay and Nicole Kingzett

Dreaming, directed by Hannah Ferris

Limbo, directed by Kaleigh Lewis and Ian Hoffman

Check Please, directed by Mari Petrucelli and Esha Sharma


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