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The Saratoga Falcon

The Saratoga Falcon

‘Witness’ a success, one more student-directed production to go

An intense courtroom scene from Agatha Christie’s “Witness for the Prosecution” unfolds on stage. Mr. Myers yells angrily at Leonard Vole: “You killed Emily French!” Leonard, near tears, trembles as the case builds up against him.
“Hold!” cried senior Shayda Roohpavar, gesturing for the scene to pause. The actors are brought back to reality: a rehearsal in the Thermond Drama Center. 
The drama department’s two student-directed shows this year are “Witness for the Prosecution,” directed by senior Shayda Roohpavar, and “Barefoot in the Park,” directed by senior Laura Hannibal. “Witness for the Prosecution,” a 1950s Agatha Christie crime drama set in England, was performed on April 25, 26 and 28 to a rousing reception. 
“It was really well placed, because there was a lot of interaction with the audience,” sophomore Meeta Marathe said. “I liked how it all spiraled towards the end, and how the climax was the ending.”   
Roohpavar said that she chose to direct “Witness for the Prosecution” because of the plot twists that take place at the end of the show. 
“I fell in love with the literature and the phrasing because of its very realistic dialogue,” Roohpavar said. “Agatha Christie is an evil genius.”
Student-directed productions are a unique addition to the drama department’s showcases, because they are completely directed and put together by students of the drama department.
“I’ve been in so many shows, and I’ve been listening to directors for so many years, so it’s nice to be able to apply all that experience  and really put everything into a show of my own,” Hannibal said.
Before they could start directing their shows, Roohpavar and Hannibal had to choose their cast members.
“We had our entire pool of actors that were considering joining the student shows come to auditions, then we had them read scenes from both shows, and narrowed it down until we both felt pretty confident in who we wanted,” Roohpavar said.
After Roohpavar and Hannibal cast their shows, Roohpavar began her rehearsal process, because her show debuted before Hannibal’s, which will open on May 23, 24 and 25. However, this helped contribute to one of Hannibal’s main difficulties throughout her production — rehearsal schedules.
“Not only has my rehearsal schedule been broken up with breaks and trips, but also we can’t use the Drama Center until Shayda’s show is done, so we have been working at my house, which is a significantly smaller acting space,” Hannibal said.
In addition to scheduling difficulties, “Barefoot in the Park,” a zany romantic comedy set in the 1960s, has a very small cast of 6, unlike the large cast of 17 of “Witness for the Prosecution.”
“[The small cast] is really nice because we can all bond together,” Hannibal said. “But it’s difficult because if one person is gone for a rehearsal for a day, then it’s almost impossible to carry on without them.”
Roohpavar’s biggest difficulty, however, was underestimating the time and effort it takes to make notes throughout a run through of the show. 
“I hadn’t realized how much thought previous directors have put into notes,” Roohpavar said. “You have to be involved the entire run of the show and make sure you catch every little thing so that you can tweak everything so that it can be at its best possible potential.”
Both directors had difficulty transitioning between interacting with their casts as peers compared to directing them as authority figures. They agree that although it was difficult in the beginning, their casts have gotten used to the transition and respect each other. 
“[Directing has] been really difficult and stressful, but also really fun. It’s really fulfilling to be involved in a project that’s totally ours,” Hannibal said. “People should come see this show because it’s a really optimistic, upbeat way to end their year, and its so much fun, it’s really dynamic show.” 
 
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