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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Senior talent on display in theater Festival

Published: March 21, 2014
Section: Arts, Etc.

Every year, theater majors at Brandeis are given the opportunity to apply for a senior thesis in the form of a senior festival show, now in its third year. The performances are free and open to the public and as the 2014 Senior Thesis Festival begins, seniors are excited to showcase their hard work.

This year’s festival features work by six seniors. The approach that each student took to the thesis varies from having written a play to directing a piece to starring in one. The seniors are Lizzy Benway, Jason Dick, Grace Fosler, Justy Kosek, Emma Lieberman and Levi Squier.

Fosler, Lieberman and Kosek all wrote their respective plays. Fosler’s “The Elephant in the Room” deals with the theme of animal cruelty in American culture. The experience was a difficult one, Fosler explained in an email to The Hoot.

“It was extremely challenging to write this play. Since it isn’t based on my personal story, it involved months of extensive research. I wanted to make sure the information I portrayed was accurate and based on fact, rather than propaganda or my own speculation.” Fosler’s cast will be performing her 15th draft of the play. By the time it is performed at PortFringe in Portland, Maine this summer, Fosler expects to be on at least her 17th version.

Kosek’s play “All You Need” is a grim take on an evening many audience members remember fondly: prom night. The Brandeis Theater Company describes the play as one that“darkly explores the world and mind of a young man as he and the people closest to him struggle to understand their own ideas about love, family and the difference between reality and memories.” Kosek not only wrote the script, but will also star in the performance as the main character, David.

The third play written by a Brandeis student is “My Morning” by Emma Lieberman. This piece appears just as original as the others’ as it deals with the difficulties of being close to somebody with a mental illness. “My Morning” is a one-woman show, starring Lieberman herself.

Other seniors will direct and star in performances as well. Jason Dick selected the show “Make Me a Song” for his senior project. Rather than a straightforward play, Dick chose to perform a song cycle featuring work by William Finn.

“His music touches on such emotionally charged and poignant themes, such as sickness, death, relationships and self-acceptance. Most importantly, everything this show deals with, from its extreme musicality to its beautiful, haunting subject matter, hits very close to home for me,” Dick said.

In explaining why he chose a musical piece rather than a play, Dick simply said, “I never feel more comfortable on stage than I do when I’m singing.”

Other performances featured this week are “MICHAEL BROKOWSKI,” directed by Levi Squier and “Necessary Targets” directed by Lizzy Benway. Squier’s show is a coming-of-age story of sorts. It is unconventional in that the story (stories) itself was put together not only himself, but by every member of the show during rehearsal. “We’ve been working with the idea of the community of the story, that inexplicable bond between a storyteller and their audience that has made stories the dominant mode of expression since before written language,” Squier wrote on the “Inside the Rehearsal Room” blog set up for the senior theses participants.

“‘Necessary Targets’ is a timely reminder of how America struggles to define its relationship to the rest of the world,” says the BTC site. “The soul of this play,” wrote Sarah Brodsky ’15, a star of Benway’s thesis on the blog, “is centered around genocide and anger and fear, [it] comes from its moments of lightheartedness and the cultivated connections between its characters. So, too, has our experience working with this play come to reflect that.”

This isn’t Benway’s first time working on “Necessary Targets.” Six years ago, she worked on the show as a high school light board operator. “It’s the show that truly made me realize the impact theater can have on an individual. I couldn’t stop thinking about the struggles of these characters, and the history behind the piece,” she wrote in an email to The Hoot.

For the most part, seniors are happy so far with their shows.

“I never expected this script to end up as humorous and sincere as it currently is. I worked through so many different concepts and characters, and I honestly can’t believe it has evolved into what it is today. While there is plenty of room for it to grow and further evolve, I’m still thrilled at how far it’s come,” Fosler said.

Dick echoed the same excitement, saying “Honestly, this show has exceeded my wildest dreams. I could not have asked for a more talented, committed and unique group of people with which to do my senior project. I am so proud of what we have accomplished. I cannot wait any longer to share our amazing work with an audience.”

“I wanted to share a very real and very raw experience with a talented group of people,” Dick said of the process, “and then with an audience. That’s what theater is to me.”

Every senior has put the knowledge that comes from the work of their years at Brandeis and of doing theater into these theses. Free shows throughout the week and weekend give the community an opportunity to support these students and all of their hard work.

The Senior Festival started on Tuesday, Mar. 18 and will run through Sunday, Mar. 23 with three performances of each show in the Laurie Theater in Spingold. The schedule can be found on the Brandeis Theater Company’s 2013-2014 season’s page online.