Miami University’s theatre scene was alive and well this past week thanks to the Independent Artist Series that took place around campus.
The Independant Artist Series, which premiered this year, is a series of performances put on and directed by graduate students. The series serves as part of their capstone program.
Each director chose to adapt an established play or bring their own original to the series based on their personal interests. Kayla Loree, the director of “The Eradication of Schizophrenia in Western Lapland,” chose this particular play, which deals with mental illness, after she became interested in psychology as an undergrad.
“Once I got the theatre bug, I didn’t want to pursue psychology, but I wanted to kind of marry the two together,” she said. “I did a report about this play last semester and was just so infatuated by the idea of it.”
The other shows in the series range in topics. “Blu” and “Mac’s World,” which were directed by Jeffrey Miller, deal with the effects of bullying. “For Remembrance, Rosemary,” directed by Natasia Reinhardt, looks at victims of abuse through the lense of Ophelia from “Hamlet.” David DeVita directed “The Latest Show,” which centers on a late night television program.
Casting for these shows began in November when other students auditioned and were cast in a play as cast or crew or both.
The audition wasn’t exclusively open to theatre majors, though.
“Several theatre majors, as well as non-majors, attended the casting call in which they read sides from the pieces and were cast from there,” said junior theatre major, Nate Bissinger, who auditioned and became a part of “The Latest Show.”
Doree’s stage manager, Lauren Lienhart, is a first-year theatre major. The technical aspects of the play, as well as the focus on mental health, which was a major theme throughout the entire series, inspired Lienhart to become a part of the program.
“The Eradication of Schizophrenia in Western Lapland” involves a split stage where two shows are going on concurrently. The audience watches one side and then the other before the story becomes clear. Doree loved the play when she studied it in psychology during her undergraduate studies and felt honored to be directing an adaptation of it for her capstone program.
“Directing is something that I think is really fun,” Loree said. “Somebody’s putting their artwork in your hands and you get to interpret it, and I feel like that’s such a big opportunity. To be able to put your own spin on somebody else’s established art is so cool.”
The plays required hours of work and rehearsal each week to bring them up to each director’s expectations. For Loree, whose play was put on in experimental space, the bonds within the cast are what helped her pull off the show.
“We were able to get a really good connection between the cast members, even with some of them being theatre majors and some of them being like ‘I just kind of want to try this out,’” she said. “We’ve been kind of able to build it into a family, which is great.”
As the premiere of the series got closer and closer, directors stepped away and handed control over to the stage managers for tech week.
Lienhart remembers the week as stressful but rewarding. She and the other stage managers ran shows in their entirety to make sure that they were as good as they could be.
“We have three different shows that were being produced within the series this week so there was a lot of load-in and load-out involved,” Lienhart said. “Every night we would run every show at least once.”
She worked in tandem with the stage managers of “Blu” and “For Remembrance, Rosemary” before all three shows premiered last weekend.
“We all worked together in order to make things run as smooth as possible, and it ended up being a really fun experience,” Lienhart said.
The response that the shows received, even before they officially premiered, was beyond expectations. Loree opened up her dress rehearsal to the public after they had sold out the shows, and the dress rehearsal almost sold out.
Lienhart is ecstatic that they got the response that they did.
“The cast and crew have worked insanely hard the weeks building up to opening, and it was awesome to see the message of the show resonate with so many people,” she said.
The Independant Artists Series isn’t over yet. “The Latest Show,” directed by David Devita, will run April 5-8 in Williams Hall.