The UMD Department of Theatre is trying something different this semester with its Stage II student-run theatre program. The first production of its kind, “Smoke and Mirrors,” is a collection of seven 10-minute plays all written and directed by UMD students. “It’s an idea I’ve been thinking about since January,” said Joshua Stenvick, director of the production. “I just kind of thought about it and then April came around and I submitted my idea of a short play festival.”
Stenvick started putting this production in motion at the end of spring semester, 2012.
Over the summer he had started working on the scripts and preparing for rehearsals, which started the second week of classes this semester. This was Stenvick’s first time directing a show, and he found having seven different plays did present a challenge, not only with directing but choosing which plays to run.
“I just put out a blanket submission email to the department,” Stenvick said. “And from there I got a few and read through them all. There were a lot of great plays that were submitted that would have been really fun to do, but I wanted to find a general theme, something that linked the plays together.”
All seven acts in the production deal with truth and things not always being how they appear. Stenvick set up separate time to meet with each of the seven playwrights to discuss their plays, and what they thought about characters and themes. He strove to know what each playwright’s vision was.
“He wanted all the playwrights to give input and make suggestions,” said Rick McLean, a UMD senior and one of the seven playwrights. “He really worked with the playwrights and wanted us to be as involved as possible.”
Stage II puts on a few productions each year, giving students an opportunity to get involved with a part of theatre they may not have much experience in. This is the first time Stage II has done a production like “Smoke and Mirrors.”
“This was a great opportunity because it kind of just fell into my hands,” McLean said. “It’s like, here’s a great opportunity to see some of your work put on stage and read by actors.”
Stenvick has a background in acting, but this is his first time directing.
“The big reason I felt I wanted to do the 10-minute play is it’s something not a lot of people know about,” Stenvick said. “It’s the starting point for a lot of the training that playwrights and actors go through when they take playwriting classes.”
In the 10-minute play you learn about structure, theme and character development. Every aspect of playwriting must be crammed into the small amount of time.
“The material is usually packed with conflict and drama,” Stenvick said. “You don’t have the time to build things up. Information needs to get to the audience quickly.”
Although the experience has been a whirlwind, Stenvick says it has been a lot of fun and a challenging experience.
“The people who deserve the most credit are the designers and the actors,” Stenvick said. “We're in Weber Music Hall. Normally we're in an actual theatre, our own comfort zone. Our designers know what they can and cannot do, but in the Weber there were so many restrictions, so many things that we can't do, that the designers really stepped up.”
BY Katie Lokowich