University Players present interactive play ‘Rollercoaster’

Category:  The Arts
Wednesday, September 28th, 2016 at 9:10 PM
University Players present interactive play ‘Rollercoaster’ by Anna Ashcraft
Actresses from the “The Star is Out” during rehearsal for ‘Rollercoaster.’ From Left: Mikayla Schroyer, Gretchen Cann and Sydney Dobbs.

The scene begins with the audience choosing a number from one to 22. The actors take the stage. Lights go black. The show begins.

The University Players are currently presenting “Rollercoaster,” a series of interactive one act plays. For 90 minutes, the audience chooses random numbers, each representing a different possible “one act.”

University Players President Brooke Ebeling, plus Patrick McGettigan, Richard Kolbosky, Teagan Nash, James Osinkski, Marge Winner and Maddie Krol work alongside professors Shaun Taylor and Rob Connick are directing the 22 one acts.

Teagan Nash, student director, said, “We each picked the play we wanted to direct. The projects reflect our interests. We have 25 actors, one of the biggest turnouts we’ve had here in years. More than a third of our actors are new actors [freshman and sophomores].”

“‘Dating At The Speed Of Life And Death’ is a dark comedy about two Facebook friends who have entirely different lives. One is really nice, one not so nice, and it just kind of spirals out of control from there,” Nash said.

Marge Winner, EU alumni and graduate student, is directing the monologue “What’s He Doing In There?,” as well as the act titled “There’s Something About Flashdance,” a comical play about a phone call to a young woman, set in the ‘80s.

“What’s He Doing In There” is set in a neighborhood on a young man’s front porch. It is a monologue with only one actor. The young man hears strange sounds coming from a mysterious neighbor’s house.

“He’s asking the audience ‘what’s he building in there’ and things are coming to his mind of what he could possibly be doing in there. It’s very creepy, kind of Addams Family creepy,” Winner described.

“Rollercoaster” isn’t your typical play. After every one act is performed, the audience gets to choose the number of the next one act to be performed, and so on, until the entire 90 minutes is over. Liz Power and Julia Kramer are the hosts in charge of picking which number the majority of the audience is calling out.

“It’s completely random, determined by audience participation. Any of the actors could go first or last, there’s no way of knowing. Some [audience members] may not even see some shows certain nights. It encourages multiple viewings and active audience participation,” Nash said.

There are 25 actors in the 22 plays, and only about half the one acts will be shown in one night, which encourages audiences to come back for more performances.

“That’s the fun of it, because you can keep coming back and you’re not always going to see the same shows,” said Winner. “There’s a variety; there’s always a mixture of shows.”

Nash explained, “You have to be ready to go on the fly. There’s no way of knowing what nights you’ll be performing; when you’re picked you got to go. There’s an element of improv.”

“Primarily, we focus on keepings the actors adapting and also playing off one another, developing a natural chemistry with one another.”

Student directors make up most of the directors for the University Players show, and many of them have taken the new directing class that was offered at EU for the first time last semester and again this year. The show consists of University Players members and non-members. All shows put on by the theatre department are open to the public to audition and direct.

“I directed ‘Insects’ last year. I got into directing because this year I am an alumni and I have my minor in theatre arts. Directing was the last thing I needed to do to get it and of course it is very much an interest to me,” Winner said.

“We’re having a lot of fun in there. I’m really impressed with how many freshman we have, and how well they remember their lines,” said Winner. “Even with the old upperclassmen, there’s just a lot of talent; very, very enticing. There’s a lot of fun going on.”

Shows ran from Thursday, Sept. 22 through Sunday, Sept. 25. Next week, they’re running at 7:30 p.m., Thursday, Sept. 29 through Saturday, Oct. 1 and 2:30 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 2. Tickets are $3 for EU students, $5 for other students, faculty. 

Anna Ashcraft is a Managing Editor of Arts for The Spectator.

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