In January, three seniors made their directorial debuts at this year’s Student-Directed Showcase. This year’s directors, Tina Crnko, Sebastian Herscher and Alex Najibi, each chose a play to direct and produce, learning a great deal in the process.
From auditioning actors to arranging sets to technical planning, directors gained a wealth of hands-on experience during the class, taught by Laura Lang-Ree, which many apply for but few get to take. “I think that students find interpreting and creating the ‘big picture’ really intriguing,” said Lang-Ree. “So often in their lives they focus solely on one thing very well, be it a subject or a song. But with directing, you have to have vision and be able to work on the smallest details with the big picture always in mind.”
This year’s productions were “Rosencranz and Guildenstern are Dead,” directed by Herscher, “Voices in Conflict,” directed by Crnko, and “How to Succeed in High School Without Really Trying,” directed by Najibi.
For Crnko, the opportunity to direct in the showcase brought her full circle, and she views it as a way to bring other students into the arts. “I became interested in the performing arts by accident, through Student-Directed Showcase,” she said. “Being offered a spot in an SDS play my freshman year shaped my love for theater and pushed me deep into the Conservatory.”
Apart from the general busywork and day-to-day activity of being a director, students also learn how to be leaders, as well as how “to always keep trying new and different ways to motivate a cast and to create a vision,” Lang-Ree said.
Despite the many challenges directors face, Crnko said the biggest obstacle was herself. “I was taking on a monster of a play,” she said. “As ‘Voices in Conflict’ is a documentary, the pressure of doing justice to these remarkable stories was almost crippling at the start. I was also incredibly afraid of how the show would be received by our community.” She was pleasantly surprised to find out that her project was enthusiastically received. “I found 20 students who were as excited as I was, and their spectacular energy and work ethic brought this powerful play to life.”
“I love the ‘aha’ moments students in SDS get when they learn the method to the madness with directing,” said Lang-Ree. “[When they see] that there really is a process and a way of creating that opens up, rather than inhibits, a show’s growth potential.”