Stephen F. Austin State University

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SFA theatre students take on dual roles, duties for SummerStage Festival

June 20, 2017 - Robbie Goodrich
NACOGDOCHES, Texas - Learning one's lines for a play can be hard enough for any actor, but when you're a student actor at Stephen F. Austin State University and involved in the SummerStage Festival, you will often find yourself learning lines for two different characters in two different plays … all at the same time.

Such is the case for several SFA School of Theatre actors who are appearing in both of this year's SummerStage productions, including William Gibson's "The Miracle Worker" and the children's show, "Ivy + Bean the Musical," with book, music and lyrics by Scott Elmegreen and based on books by Annie Barrows.

Connor Morrison, Princeton, Texas, junior; Logan Jennings, Longview sophomore; and Zaria Harp, Mesquite junior, perform in both plays. They agree that finding the time to get everything done is as great a challenge as developing two different characters and learning lines for different plays simultaneously.

"The hardest part of repertory theatre is definitely the time management and the constant switch from show to show," Jennings said. "Keeping ideas and characters apart from each other for each show is extremely difficult."

"Basically after 2 p.m., I'm busy until 10 p.m.," Morrison said. "Getting up in the morning is hard after two long rehearsals back to back. That's really the only time I have to do laundry, clean and do other things."

The schedule of SummerStage is meant to replicate the experience students would have in a summer repertory season "in the real world," according to Dr. Inga Meier, assistant professor of theatre at SFA and director of "The Miracle Worker."

"One of the key takeaways is that we want them to develop the work habits and time-management skills that will help them succeed," Meier said. "In other words, it's demanding, but it's meant to be - to better prepare them for what might come after graduation."

Harp's approach to juggling a hectic SummerStage schedule is to "take it one day at a time," she said.

"I try my best to not get too ahead of myself and stress myself out," she said. "I also do my best to stay as organized as possible. I don't trust myself to just remember things. I have to make sure that I write things down and set alarms so that I don't forget anything.

"We don't get any days off, and any extra time we have before rehearsals or in between rehearsals is spent sleeping, eating or working on another show," she added. "It can become difficult to keep your energy up through the weeks."

These dual roles spill over into the production demands of the plays, with students taking on multiple jobs in sound and lighting, costuming, props and set construction, among other responsibilities.

But the lessons learned and the relationships forged through such a grueling schedule have their rewards, the students agreed.

"The most enjoyable aspect of this process is the people," Jennings said. "Everyone is so loving, and it feels just like a (not-so-typical) family. Everyone here is in it together!"

Harp said she is enjoying seeing her own personal growth as an individual and an actor.

"There have been a few times where I have felt really stressed out or really doubtful of my abilities," she said, "but this experience has taught me that I am capable. I have also loved working with my friends and creating memories outside of rehearsals."

"I'm incredibly stressed and always tired," Morrison said, "but this has been one of the best summers I've ever had. These experiences are definitely going to stick with me in the future."

The festival is sponsored in part by Tipton Ford Lincoln.

"The Miracle Worker" will be presented in the Downstage Theatre at 7:30 p.m. June 27 and 29 and July 6, 7, 11, 12 and 13; and at 2 p.m. July 15. General admission tickets are $15 for adults, $10 for seniors and $7.50 for students/youth.

"Ivy + Bean the Musical" will be presented in Turner Auditorium at 10 a.m. July 1 and 6; at 2 p.m. July 5, 8 and 13; and at 6:30 p.m. July 1, 8 and 14. General admission tickets are $7.50.

Both venues are in Griffith Fine Arts Building on the SFA campus.

For tickets or more information, visit http://www.finearts.sfasu.edu/ or call (936) 468-6407 or (888) 240-ARTS.