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Wednesday, Dec 6, 2023

"In previews: Student theater this fall"

As the leaves begin changing, so too are the lights in Wright Theatre and the Hepburn Zoo. Middlebury student theatre is back on its feet after a long summer, and the Middlebury community has much to look forward to this semester. Seven shows will be performed around campus — three directed by faculty and four by students. 

For the two faculty-directed shows, the Middlebury Theatre Department has chosen to produce and perform “Polaroid Stories” by Naomi Iizuka and “Greek Tragedy” by Lia Romeo. “Polaroid Stories” will be directed by Professor of Theatre Alex Draper and “Greek Tragedy” by Associate Professor of Theatre Michole Biancosino. 

“Polaroid Stories” takes a unique approach to combine the past with present, as Lizuka drew inspiration from the 8 CE Latin mythological poem “Metamorphoses” and from interviews with young people today. The effect is polaroid-like snapshots, portraying each character living on the edge of society, searching to be seen, to be loved or to disappear. 

“The characters, with the struggles and upheavals of their lives refracted through myth, provide the opportunity for performers to step into personas much bigger than themselves,” Draper wrote in an email to The Campus.

The production also features the work of Middlebury Alumnus Miguel Castillo ’18, who is choreographing the movement within the show and playing the role of “D.” The show will also feature soundscapes from Professor Miranda Hardy’s course on sound design for film. “Polaroid Stories” will run from Nov. 30 through Dec. 2 in the Seeler Studio Theatre in Mahaney Arts Center. 

“Greek Tragedy” by Lia Romeo is a play that chronicles the tale of an influencer who loses control of her life when her friend starts making her content for her. It addresses themes of mental health, friendship and addiction through the eyes of a young teen. This semester Biancosino wants her actors and stage managers to gain experience workshopping a new play with the playwright in the room. “Greek Tragedy” will uniquely re-orient the audience in Wright Memorial Theatre by rearranging the theatre itself. 

“I’m excited to see the audience’s response upon first entering the building — if you’ve been there to see a play before you will immediately need to adjust to a different relationship between the audience and the actors,” Biancosino said. 

The goal of the production is to uncover the magic of theatre by highlighting the unique mechanics, tropes and forms of theatre as an art. 

“There is no message or core takeaway from most plays I’m interested in directing… I'm interested in these questions that are central to the play: How do we separate personal and our public lives? How can the images we project on social media entrap us into playing a certain kind of part? Since all storytelling is objective, who gets to control the narrative of a person’s life?” Biancosino said. 

“Greek Tragedy” will be performed in Wright Memorial Theatre from Oct. 26 through Oct. 28.

The theatre department also gets to showcase new faces through the annual “First Show,” a unique opportunity for first-years to work on their first college show in a more casual setting. The 28th first-year show, “Look, Dream, Begin” is a series of new, short plays from around the world. It will be directed by alumnus Madison Middleton ’22.5 and will feature a collaboration between the Theatre department and Climate Change Theatre Action, a US-Canada-based Arts & Climate Initiative. This year’s show will be performed Oct. 5 through Oct. 7 in the Hepburn Zoo. 

Apart from the first-year show and faculty-directed plays this semester, four students are presenting their senior thesis productions and another is doing her 500-level production. 

Beck Barsanti ’23.5 is presenting an original work called “Dad Rock: A Selection of Scenes.” The piece uses Bruce Springsteen songs to string together the scripts of eight classic plays, including Tom Stoppard's “Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead” and Martin Vinogradov’s “Coffin.” Barsanti will play principal roles along with three other actors, while Bri Beach ’24, Maggie Blake ’24 and Gavin Richards ’25.5 are working as a team of directors. 

The show addresses themes of toxic masculinity from 15th century chivalry to contemporary misogyny and sexism. Barsanti was inspired to write “Dad Rock” after acting in the thesis project “Botticelli in the Fire” in spring 2022 by Madison Middleton ’22.5 and Ryan Kirby ’22. “Dad Rock” will be performed Nov. 2 through Nov. 4 in the Hepburn Zoo. 

Beach, Annabelle Iredale ’23.5 and Aidan Amster ’23.5 are collaborating on a combined senior thesis production of “Storm Still,” a contemporary musical adaptation of Shakespeare’s “King Lear” written by Gab Riesman. The trio chose to produce and perform “Storm Still” because they wanted a script that offered three nuanced roles for women and incorporated the complexity and beauty of familial relationships. “Storm Still” will be performed Dec. 7 through Dec. 9 in the Hepburn Zoo.

Sophie Butler-Rahman ’25 will direct “Beta Bitches” for her 500-level project this fall. “Beta Bitches” is a show about two friends who hold a séance to contact their dead friend, but when the séance goes wrong they are forced to confront the unexpected. The show explores themes of friendship and death, while the characters fight their demons on a trip to the underworld. 

“I’m most excited about the hands-on collaboration aspect of the project that will involve the actresses. As it’s a new play there’s a lot of room to experiment with character choices and motives, and I look forward to bringing these girls who experience relatable friendship struggles to life,” Butler-Rahman said. 

“Beta Bitches” will be performed in the Hepburn Zoo from Nov. 9 to Nov. 11.

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Topping off the fall season, the Middlebury College Musical Theatre (MCMT) club is producing and performing the Tony Award-winning “Twenty-Fifth Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee,” written by Rachel Sheinkin with music and lyrics by William Finn. The show is a comical drama about a middle school spelling bee, which explores themes of teen angst and family drama over an energetic soundtrack. The production will be directed by Jonathan Mount ’25.5. 

“It’s MCMT’s first musical since “Big Fish,” which was four semesters ago… The cast is so talented, and the show is incredibly funny and clever. I think the Middlebury community is going to love it, and I can’t wait to see how it unfolds!” Mount said. The “25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee” will be performed on Nov. 11 at 7 p.m. in Wilson Hall.

From themes of cyberbullying, masculinity and education to familial grief, in settings from rural Putnam County to urban New York City, over soundtracks ranging from Springsteen to show tunes, this fall’s theatre docket has a lot to offer. If you are interested in seeing these wonderful productions come to life, tickets can be purchased on the box office website

Editor’s note: Acadia Klepeis ’24 is an Arts and Culture Editor for The Campus and is a member of MCMT as well as a member of the “Big Fish” cast.