Training Theatre Artists to Make a Difference
By: Robert Pike, Junior Drama Major
Every fall in the Catholic University of America’s Drama Department, the junior and freshmen classes collaborate and create the Freshmen Showcase, or more informally referred to as Frocase. For juniors, it is a chance to pass on what they earned in their own Frocase, what it means to strive for excellence in a theatrical endeavor. On a more personal level, we get to know the incoming freshmen and connect with them as peers and mentors. For the freshmen, it is a way of showcasing their various abilities and talents to the members their new home for the next four years. There was no doubt that these thoughts flew through our heads as we all sat in the auditioning room thinking about how only two years ago we were the ones walking in and auditioning for those on the other side of the table.
After auditions, the junior class split into directing duos and chose to work with each freshman in scenes and monologues. My directing team consisted of Sammi Smedley and I who have never had an experience directing since we have entered CUA. We have worked on various projects in the department and have always communicated well (an essential part of working on a scene. As soon as we saw the auditions we knew exactly who our freshmen were and where we wanted to take them.
Our chosen scene was from CUA Alumnus John Pielmier’s Agnes of God, a play that has stuck with me since I saw it back in my native Florida. We worked with freshmen Drama major Samantha Bonner and sophomore Drama minor Stephanie Twomey who were very willing to jump into a heavy scene. We felt, that if they were up for the challenge, Pielmier’s script would be the piece that allowed for them to explore places within themselves and their craft that they haven’t been yet.
We had a small dinner, cooked by yours truly, as our first read. From the first moment, I felt this scene was going to go very well. Neither Sammi nor I was disappointed in the amount and quality of work our actors put in the process in order to make it their own. The instance that summed up our experience was one run of the scene that, from the first line, was weird. Every theatre artist runs into that strange scene that makes you sit back and wonder what just happened. Instead of discouraging them, Samantha and Stephanie accepted it with grace, using it as a learning experience and gleaning what they could from that bum run.
They rose to every challenge that this experience brought to them. We juniors are so happy to have been a part of preparing these freshmen for their first Hartke experience. Working with these freshmen was such a great project, and it is rewarding to know that we are some of the first to work with them in this department.
I realized that the big secret of Frocase is not just for juniors to assist in introducing the freshmen and showing off their great ability and talent. The secret is in learning about yourself. In assessing where you were two years ago and where you need to go now. Without this sense, the experience is cheapened and some of the heart is lost. I can thankfully say however, this was an enlightening and useful time for both freshmen and juniors.
Thank you to everyone who came out and supported Y.O.F.O. and the newest members of the Drama Department as they performed scenes from Tracy Letts to Christopher Durang, also featuring new work from the Junior Class’s own Bridget Grace Sheaff and Brian Bradley.