By Maria Smith
Samuel M Acosta directed his Senior Theatre Project “Rabbit Hole,” which was performed on Saturday, November 12th. “Rabbit Hole,” by David-Lindsay Abaire, is the story of a grieving couple and their struggle to cope with the loss of their child.
Sam acted as director, set designer and props master of his project. Important players in the STP also included Lily VanBrocklin, stage manager, and Anna Varney, assistant stage manager.
From start to finish, this project has been a collaborative effort for all those involved. An STP is differentiated from a main-stage production because control and responsibility have been given completely to the senior.
Acosta said, “I had to take on a lot of jobs that normally other people cover in the main stage.”
Acosta was responsible for directing the show, as well as casting all his actors, finding willing stage managers, lighting and costume designers, a light operator, run crew, spot operator, sound designer and house manager. In a main-stage show, the theater department gathers both students and faculty for these jobs. Professors typically direct main-stage shows.
For an STP, responsibilities are delegated to a smaller group of students instead of a full production crew.
Acosta was also fully responsible for funding his project.
He said, “It’s 100% being funded out of my pocket. I had to figure out a budget and what I could borrow.”
Acosta spent a whopping total of $1.25 on costumes: sunglasses from Dollar General. All of his actors provided their costumes. He rented and borrowed the props and furniture to cut down costs.
Most of his funds were spent on paying for the rights of the show along with scripts. Acosta was permitted to select the show he was going to produce, but this process provided some complications.
He said of the faculty approval process, “I was originally trying to do something that I wrote. They approved one show I wrote. I tried to switch to the other show I wrote, and they wouldn’t let me. They told me to go back to the first one. I really didn’t want to do that. I asked to do “Rabbit Hole” and they said yes.”
Acosta looked for a script with mostly females because of the shortage of male actors on campus. He also needed a small cast, since STPs limit actors to six per production. After auditions and casting in mid to late August, “Rabbit Hole” had 9 weeks of rehearsal.
Lily VanBrocklin explained how her experience as an STP stage manager has differentiated from her experience as a stage manager for a main-stage production.
VanBrocklin said, “It has its benefits and difficulties. It is a more collaborative experience because I have open communication with the director where I can give my thoughts and ideas. In a mainstage I can do this, but [with an STP] the director asks for my opinion.’’
STPs bring students closer together than even a mainstage would. Acosta was very appreciative of the help he received from fellow students.
“I couldn’t have done it without Lily and Anna,” he said.
Acosta’s goal is to become a director; he is applying for MFA programs. Overall, he feels his experience directing his STP has been rewarding. It has challenged him to adapt his directing technique and communication style with different actors.
He said, “I’ve had to learn to adjust and this has stretched me as a director. Having to produce has been a challenge. It helped me to see a lot of other aspects of theater. It’s been more tiring than other experiences, but the payoff will be the greatest.”
Maria Smith is a senior strategic communication major with a theater minor. She enjoys podcasts, baking, working out and reading novels.
Images courtesy of Roberto Moran