Student production opportunities are abundant at Loyola
As part of Loyola’s commitment to a liberal arts education, the Loyola Theatre Program encourages its students to engage with every facet of the production process. This can be seen through the required costume construction, scenic construction, and electrics practicums, and also through the plethora of production opportunities and project possibilities available to students.
Every year, the Second Stage season brings projects to the Underground Theatre that are chosen, directed, designed, managed, and performed by students. The Second Stage is a platform to hear students’ voices and delve into their questions; projects can range from . In the fall of 2017, senior Sophie Hamm directed The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee with fellow senior Anna Joaquin as Music Director / Choreographer, and junior Ada Göktepe as Stage Manager. This team of women constructed a show which became so popular that extra seats and standing room had to be added to every performance. Ada and Sophie both claimed that their success mirrored previous student productions at Loyola, which have a reputation for strong performances and intriguing work. Sophie exclaimed that working on a devised piece earlier in her career at Loyola made her fall in love with the world of design and the possibilities which exist within the Second Stage.
Applying for a Second Stage project gives students the ability to explore intriguing themes and questions during Loyola’s next season. Sophie chose Bee to complement the serious undertones of the Faculty Directed Season. Bee’s status as an ensemble show was also important to Anna and Sophie, both musical theatre performers, because they wanted to showcase the vast amount of musical theatre talent present within Loyola’s program.
Collaboration became an important part of the process for the team. Sophie and Anna, along with first-time stage manager Ada, united to support the cast and crew throughout the process. Sophie emphasized the importance of “surround[ing] yourself with people that you genuinely enjoy… and trying to create a room where all those smart people feel like they can speak and have their ideas heard.” The Second Stage creates a space for students to learn simultaneously from their mentors and each other as they work toward developing a production.
In order to be granted materials, mentorship, and support from the department, students must complete a thorough application. In the application, students describe their project and how it would complement the upcoming theatre season. The application is followed by an interview process, in which the applicant must express their vision and goals clearly, concisely, and elaborate on what they wish to learn from the experience. In talking with Sophie and Anna, they stressed the importance of keeping an open mind throughout the selection process. During the interview, the mentors discuss whether or not the original show or idea proposed is a good fit for the director, the project, and the theatre season. Sophie reflected that “you just have to go in clear with the reasons why you like your idea so far, but then be able to meet [the mentors] halfway, because sometimes they have a better idea than you do.” Throughout the entire process, mentors and students focus on finding the right project through which a student can effectively explore their idea.
Second Stage projects also build and improve upon students’ skills while encouraging personal growth. Ada was reassured by her ability to remain calm and solve inevitable mid-performance problems while confidently completing the rest of the show. Sophie felt pride last year after presenting a staged reading of her original play Life on Shuffle, but has also developed a newfound confidence from her experience directing Bee. Anna, along with the others, stressed the importance of combining theory with practice, and they expressed that the creation of this production was the culmination of what their classes at Loyola had been preparing them to accomplish.
Various classroom experiences helped the team during the Bee process, but Sophie realized, “you’re not going to really know how to solve the problems in the moment until you’re in the moment having to solve those problems.” Ada stressed the fact that directing and stage managing are not skills which can be “rehearsed” before entering the industry. Instead, Loyola’s Second Stage allows students to gain practical experience with the support of individualized mentorship. With regards to stage managing, Ada added,“the biggest part of the job is handling humans, and you can’t learn that in any class; you can’t learn that in one production. Every single time you get out there in a meeting, you talk to people,[and] you learn something else.”
Learning opportunities such as these are rare for recent college graduates starting out in the industry. The Bee team appreciated that the Second Stage program provides students the time, space, materials, and guidance to create and develop an idea to completion. Sophie reflected that she wishes she would have submitted more projects throughout her time at Loyola. Even proposing a small piece freshman year, she felt, would have provided her further possibilities to learn and grow. Loyola is extremely fortunate to have a program which encourages student leadership .
In advice to those thinking of proposing a project in the future, Ada suggests being intentional with one’s time at Loyola by not jumping into positions unprepared. Instead, she recommends listening, taking classes, becoming an assistant, and always asking questions because the point of these experiences is to learn. Anna emphasized the importance of remembering that the themes and methods one can explore on the Second Stage are limitless. As Sophie put it,“if there is something that you want to see, you can make it happen on the Second Stage.”
In the Underground Laboratory Theatre this semester, don’t miss , a devised study of gender and Oscar Wilde using The Importance of Being Ernest, and , an adapted version of George Orwell's dystopian novel. Interested in proposing a project or holding a production position for the 2018-2019 Loyola Theatre Season? Applications for a are due February 15th, 2018, and applications for are due March 24th, 2018.