Final-year theatre students at the University of New England are preparing to display their directing skills to the Armidale public in UNE’s annual season of short plays.
The 2008 season, titled Hopes Before Dark, comprises 11 plays, each running for about 15 minutes. Hopes Before Dark begins today (Friday the 17th of October) and continues on Monday the 20th, Wednesday the 22nd, and Friday the 24th of October. Each day’s program, beginning at 5.15 pm, offers a different group of two or three plays.
“The choice of material varies greatly,” said Sue Fell, a lecturer in Theatre Studies at UNE. “There are excerpts from classic comedies and thrillers alongside adaptations of novels and short stories.”
“This is when advanced students get to put all they’ve learnt onto the stage of a real theatre â€“ the UNE Arts Theatre â€“ and be publicly ‘examined’,” Ms Fell said. “We (their teachers) sit in the audience, and so, too, do ‘Mr and Mrs Public’.
“They have to work as professionals; it’s risky â€“ and exciting.”
She explained how the annual event “builds the culture” within UNE Theatre Studies by engaging first-year students as stage managers and sound and lighting crew. “It also connects the University to the wider community,” she said, “by drawing its actors from throughout the University (both students and staff members) and the Armidale community (including high-school students). It’s the public profile of Theatre Studies.”
“Only one of the pieces â€“ Historia, on Monday â€“ comes with a ‘coarse language and adult themes’ warning,” Ms Fell said. “Everything else is suitable for all ages and tastes. And the starting time of 5:15 pm sharp means you’ll be out of the Arts Theatre by 6 pm â€“ a great way to end the day and be home in time for dinner.”
Entry is by gold coin donation at the door. The program for the season is:
FRIDAY 17 October
The Tell-Tale Heart by Edgar Allan Poe, directed by Jamie Exworth. This is the story of a daughter’s struggle to care for her sick and disabled mother and what happens when the pressure becomes too much.
Gaslight by Patrick Hamilton, directed by Sarah Harrison. A Victorian thriller â€“ with a touch of humour â€“ about a devilishly charming husband, Mr Manningham, who attempts to drive his wife insane in order to keep a long-dead secret buried.
MONDAY 20 October
A Midsummer Night’s Dream by William Shakespeare, directed by Amy Euston. This looks at the scene in which Lysander and Demetrius are both attempting to woo Helena, while Hermia looks on in confusion. It’s a light-hearted look at relationships, accompanied by some classic songs, in a modern setting.
After The Theatre by Anton Chekhov, directed by Nindiy Meyer-Gleaves. A tragi-comedy about a teenage girl who wants her life to be as dramatic as the play she has just seen. Faced with a choice, she sets herself to decide which man she wants.
Historia by Noelle Janaczewska, directed by Sam Francis. This is a story about the innocent discovery of sexuality and self; a tale of love and lust, lies and deception, and â€“ most importantly â€“ discovery.
WEDNESDAY 22 October
The Servant of Two Masters by Carlo Goldoni, directed by Kylie Baker. An opportunity arises for a servant, Truffaldino, to earn a few extra dollars, simply by waiting on two masters while each is ignorant of the other. Truffaldino is almost caught out many times and blames all the mistakes on a fictitious servant called Pasquale.
The Cagebirds by David Campton, directed by Richard Shannon. Physical, absurdist comedy (using sticks, rope and the actor’s imagination) centered on the idea that “stone walls don’t make a prison”.
Psychic Attack, from A Mouthful of Birds by Caryl Churchill & David Lan, directed by Michelle Lawrence. A play about possession, and a woman’s struggle with the spirits of her mind while her husband turns a blind eye.
FRIDAY 24 October
Dinner for One by Lauri Wylie, directed by Cathryn Ricketts. A rich lady is celebrating her birthday. All her friends have died, and her butler, wanting to ensure that her birthday is enjoyable for her, pretends to be all of them. Drinking alcohol for four people while preparing and serving the meal, he gets extremely intoxicated.
Hamlet by William Shakespeare, directed by Nikki Crow. This gothic, shrill, dark-humoured slice of Shakespeare’s Hamlet is Phantom of the Opera meets Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde – full of irony, quick wit and eccentricity.
A Hope in Hell, directed by Alanna Proud. Based on the graphic novel series The Sandman, by Neil Gaiman, this piece is stylised, dramatic and moody. The characters are distinct, extreme and complex; the dialogue is sparse.