Training Theatre Artists to Make a Difference
(The Junior Class) From left to right: Chris Doyle, Annaliese Neaman, Rachel Foley, Morgan Wilder, & Tommy Stack
CUAdrama junior, Tommy Stack (right in the picture above), reflects on his experience co-directing the annual Freshmen Showcase.
If you’ve taken a casual stroll down to the Hartke Theatre over the past week, you have probably noticed a flyer or two advertising, “Spare Change: CUADrama’s 2017 Freshmen Showcase.” But you might be reading this and thinking to yourself, “What is this Freshmen Showcase?” The Freshmen Showcase, or “Frocase” as the kids call it nowadays, is a time-honored tradition here at CUA’s Drama Department. Every year, the junior Class produces/directs/designs a wonderful night of scenes and monologues featuring the newest batch of undergraduates in the Drama Department.
We, the junior class, were both excited and nervous to produce The Freshmen Showcase. Around mid-September, we had an initial meetup before our Directing I class to get the ball rolling. We decided that our Frocase would feature both scenes and Monologues, and the scenes would be chosen individually by each member of the Junior Class.
Eventually, the big day came– Auditions. Sometimes the excitement for Frocase is low, but we were happy to see a great deal of freshmen audition for the show. We had each of the freshmen stop by and perform a portion of the scenes we had selected. After watching everyone perform, we, the juniors, discussed as a class who we wanted in our particular scenes. On our audition sheets, we gave the freshmen class the choice of performing in either two scenes, or performing in one scene and one monologue; this had to be taken into account during casting. We actually ended up having to add an extra scene which I co-directed with the wonderful, Morgan Wilder.
Morgan and I had to decide quickly on what scene we wanted to add to the lineup. After spitballing a few ideas back and forth, Morgan and I decided on including Jim and Laura’s scene from The Glass Menagerie. The scene as a whole came along great; Morgan and I worked wonderfully with each other. Since I had never directed anything prior to Frocase, I was suuuuuper grateful to have someone like Morgan to help me along the way in crafting a very wonderful scene.
But I couldn’t rely on Morgan for everything, because I had one more scene to direct, and I was going solo on this one. I decided to direct “Getting it Back”,” a scene from the play Almost, Maine. The main hurdle in directing the scene was simply a lack of experience; I had never directed anything in my life. I was completely lost, and I was worried that I was going to mess it up for the freshmen involved.
Any questions or concerns I had about directing were answered thanks to all the lessons I learned in Eleanor Holdridge’s Directing I class. As I learned more from Eleanor, I felt that the rehearsals went a lot smoother and were a lot less stressful. Eventually, my wonderful actors, Ari and Kyle, and I were able to squeeze out a very heart-warming scene.
The whole rehearsal process has definitely taught me a lot of personal lessons about theatre as a whole. However, Frocase has also strengthened the bond within the junior Class. It’s been a learning process for all of us, but I think our biggest strength as a whole was the trust we had in one another. Frocase is all about a collection of parts coming together to form the collective whole. I knew that each of my classmates were determined to put on a great show. It was great seeing my own work come to life, but it also felt great to see the work of all my friends in the junior class come together as well.
While Frocase as a whole is a tradition here at The Hartke, this year had a little bit of an added twist. You see, in the past, The Freshmen Showcase served as a project in the junior class’ course on Theatre Production. This year, however, the Freshmen Showcase was not evaluated or graded. If that’s the case, you might ask yourself, “Why go through with it if you’re not getting a grade?” Sure, it’s tradition, but if it’s not required, why didn’t we start a new tradition? Why did we produce the 2017 Freshmen Showcase?
This brings me to the name of the whole Frocase, “Spare Change.” Now I wish I could tell you that “Spare Change” is some complex philosophical commentary on our country’s economic state, but that is simply not the case. When looking at our scenes after auditions, we started searching for that overarching theme that tied our individual scenes into one collective whole. After a group reflection, we noticed that every single one of our scenes dealt with some sort of change for the characters involved. It wasn’t too long after this idea of change rolled around that Chris Doyle chimed in with a, “Why don’t we call it, ‘Spare Change.’” We all shared a quick laugh and decided that the name would be a fun hook to get everyone excited for the show.
But is our title simply a witty line just to fill up the lab? I don’t think so. I started thinking about the idea of “Spare Change.” Spare Change is something you offer to another individual for their sake. Even if you have very little to offer, the idea is that you intentionally give part of yourself to someone else for their benefit, not your own.
The other juniors and I were shaking at the idea that we were the first directors for the college careers of the freshmen class. Even though there is still much to learn about the world of theatre, it is our job as juniors to pass on every bit of knowledge we have to the freshmen. Sometimes, it’s not about how much you give, but why you decided to give in the first place. This was our first opportunity to give back to our department, and we gave back the best way we could, by guiding the new members of our family here at the Hartke Theatre.
That’s why it’s the job of the Class of 2019, and all the other classes that follow, to continue the tradition of the Freshmen Showcase. Sure, the Freshmen Showcase is a fun way for all our new members of the department to show off their acting chops, but it is so much more than that. Frocase is the time that we invite new members of our family into our home. And more importantly, Frocase is the time where everyone can come together and express who they are as artists.
I might not remember every scene from the 2015 Freshmen Showcase. What I will remember, are the precious memories of late night &Pizza after the show and one final group hug to celebrate the end of our first college performance. It was the first time I felt like I was truly a part of something greater here at CUA, and I can’t think of anything more beautiful than giving that experience to those just setting foot in our Department.
– Tommy Stack