Guilford theatre department full of anticipation for new season and new faculty

An electric sander, manned by sophomore Lee Sisson, buzzes in the scene shop. Junior Patrick Brandt runs lines next to the Joseph M. Bryan Jr. Plaza fountain. Sophomore Nina Troy prances fearlessly along the catwalk. There is always something happening in the Theatre Studies Department. Right now, everyone is preparing for this year’s production season.

The first step is choosing the season’s three shows.

“We’re a little unusual because we take nominations into consideration,” said Marc Williams, instructor of theatre studies. “We use a very Quaker process. We talk through the pros and cons of each title and essentially the students select shows.”

Williams is directing the first show of the season, “Rumors” by Neil Simon.

“Rumors is a farce, and farces turn the existing society on its ear,” said David Hammond, chair of the Theatre Studies Department.

This play is about a group of high-class members of society that attend a dinner party together. However, the party never truly begins because the host has shot himself in the ear and the hostess is missing.

Hilarity ensues as confusion heightens.

“It’s a laugh a minute,” said Williams, eager to see the audience’s reaction to “Rumors.”

The second show of the season will be “Animal Farm,” an adaptation of the classic novel by George Orwell.  This show will be directed by Professor of Theatre Studies Jack Zerbe. Students will be rehearsing throughout J-term and performing when the rest of the student body returns to campus.

The final play, “Heartbreak House,” will be directed by Hammond.

“Heartbreak House” takes place on the precipice of World War I, and, like “Rumors,” revolves around the incorrect and often humorous preconceptions of the wealthy elite.  Hammond describes the show as “a heroic comedy and romance that faces the realization that everything we stand for may not be around forever.”

The upcoming season will be enhanced by two recent additions to the department: Robin Vest and Bryan Coleman.

“The design and technology portion of our department has been improved in an almost immeasurable way through their presence,” said Williams.

Vest is the new resident designer and Coleman the technical director and production manager.

“Working with Bryan is very entertaining, but he still treats us like professionals,” said Troy.

Pleased with how this season ties together, Hammond claims that all three shows serve as commentary on the tenuousness of society.

“These plays all happen when natural impulses hit circumstances that make them assert themselves very strongly, so that people behave as themselves but much more extremely,” said Hammond.

This kind of deep analysis is not uncommon in the Guilford Theatre Department.

“Marc always follows a scene by asking how you think you did,” said first-year Emma Moreno. “He helps you figure out what’s happening instead of dictating it to you.”

“I like the fact that the department is intellectually rigorous,” said Hammond. “There’s nothing more magical than the joy of creative problem solving.”

Sophomore Victoria Saraldi, stage manager for “Rumors,” feels that the Theatre Studies Department has had an immensely positive impact on her college experience.

“They have your betterment in mind,” said Saraldi about the department. “The professors will do everything in their power to make you successful.”

“I think that Guilford has a moral involvement in its work,” said Hammond. “There are a lot of things that are joyous here, but I don’t think that there’s anything frivolous.”