Abby Sweet / Lantern photographer
Taking the stage alone is a completely different beast than acting with an ensemble. For students looking to complete the Department of Theatre’s Master of Fine Arts in Acting program, the solo challenge will represent their final hurdle before earning their degree.
The nine individuals completing the three-year program at the end of Spring Quarter will showcase their final projects beginning Thursday at 7:30 p.m. at Mount Hall Studio Theatre. The showcase will run through the end of May.
Created and performed solely by student-actors, each act will range from humorous to serious and last between 15 and 25 minutes. Each show will feature members of the Scarlet Cast, consisting of Alison Vasquez, Alex Boyles, Ashley Kobza and Kevin McClatchy, or members of the Gray Cast, consisting of Ibsen Santos, Tory Matsos, Aaron Zook, Moopi Mothibeli and Charlesanne Rabensburg.
Matsos’ project, titled “Dante’s Muse,” is inspired by Lizzie Siddal, a woman who lived during the mid-19th century and is the center of a legendary tale.
After her death at a young age, legend says Siddal’s husband braided a volume of poetry he had written in her hair. When he ran out of money about seven years later, he decided he wanted to publish the poetry. After digging up her corpse, her husband was startled to find Siddal remained in perfect condition and as beautiful as she had originally been, Matsos said.
“She was a model for artists at the time and kind of had her own story to tell,” Matsos said. “My show is based around my own experience, why I feel attached to her and what I think she has to teach all of us about the human experience.”
The students began generating ideas for their acts about a year ago and have since worked to transform the ideas to the stage, said Jeanine Thompson, associate professor in theater and director of graduate studies.
The freedom to create in some ways served as a challenge for some of the students.
“The sky was the limit, and I think sometimes when you don’t have many constraints it’s hard,” Vasquez said. “The hardest process is the starting point.”
Vasquez will bring her identity as a Latina in the United States to the forefront in her presentation “La Flor De La Canela.”
“What I feel I connected to most is humanity’s need to feel connection to the past, to make peace with it sometimes,” Vasquez said.
Vasquez’s piece developed into a tale of her own identity as a Mexican-American woman. The story will showcase her identity through three generations of Mexican-American women – her grandmother, mother and herself.
The MFA acting program prepares actors for work in traditional theater and for the creation of new works through a curriculum focusing on three areas: ensemble work a director creates, ensemble work the actors create and the solo project individuals devise.
Thompson said she believes this combination, especially the solo project, will help prepare graduates for a future in acting.
“This will enable them to find or develop work wherever they may land in the world,” Thompson said. “We are not just preparing actors to go work in New York or Los Angeles, we are preparing artists to work anywhere they are interested to be.”
Along with the challenge of commanding the stage on their own, the actors are also faced with the responsibility of supplying their own props and scenic elements.
“This is our way of helping them to adjust from being under the guidance of the university for three years, and getting them ready to step out and be successful on their own,” Thompson said.
Although appreciative of the support the department has offered in the past, Matsos said she is also grateful to experience the requirement of finding materials on her own.
“Normally we’re able to borrow costumes and set pieces that otherwise we’d have to come up with the money for ourselves,” Matsos said. “The cool thing is that we’ve now gone through this process and are equipped to be more resourceful as artists to know what we need to be able to create our own work.”
After three years of working together, the project will mark an end to not only the students’ personal development under the program but also their daily interaction as a group.
“It’s going to be weird to not have that group of people that you’re working with everyday, but it will be cool to see what people go on to do,” Matsos said. “It’s been a good run here and we have gotten to do a lot of good work together. It’s the end of an era.”