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It's All in the Form

Tuesday, Apr. 16, 2013


Denise Albiston

Caine College of the Arts

Utah State University

Phone: (435) 797-1500



LOGAN - From improvisation to satire to premieres, Utah State University’s student-directed plays are changing form April 23- 26 at 7:30 p.m. in the Black Box Theatre, located in the Chase Fine Arts Center, Room 224, on USU’s Logan campus.

“This is the first time in this class that we have had a brand new play written by a USU student, an adaption of existing works and an improvisation piece,” said Adrianne Moore, associate professor in the Caine College of the Arts and instructor of the advanced directing class. “The theatrical form is different from what it has been in the past but we are also representing those works more traditional in form as well.”

In past classes, advanced directing students have chosen a one act or short play to produce and direct. This semester’s plays are changing the former format; the students are directing an original work by a USU student, an improvisational piece and adaptations of two plays.

Quince Van Orden, a senior studying theater, is directing the first improvisational work in the class’s history, a piece called “The Herald.” The work features members of the several improvisation groups from Cache Valley and, in true improvisation form, will be a unique performance. 

“This piece is possibly the most comical and ingenious set of scenes you’ve ever seen and never will again,” said Van Orden.

Three improvisation groups currently perform in Cache Valley — USU Improv, the Antics and Logan Out Loud. Van Orden is the former president and current member of USU Improv and his piece features members of all three improvisation groups. 

“I don’t feel that improvisation is a big enough medium out in the world and I want people to understand the greatness of this art form,” said Van Orden when asked why he chose to do the piece.

An original work by USU undergraduate Skye Orchard entitled “Identity” is directed by Liz Gabbitas, a senior studying theater.   

“I’m really excited to be working on her stuff,” said Gabbitas. “It’s been exciting to develop because we have a great group of actors, and creating a new piece is always a lot of fun.”

Gabbitas is a playwright herself and has won recognition for two of her works from the Northwest Playwrights Alliance (NPA), a nonprofit organization focused on playwrights and theater arts. One of her plays is being produced in an annual tour and the other was published in an anthology from the NPA.

“I’m lucky that I have a little bit of a playwright’s perspective because I can communicate with Skye effectively,” said Gabbitas. “But as a director I can look at the script differently and have a more well-rounded perspective when approaching the project.”  

Also new this year is an adaption of two existing plays by Edward Albee and Harold Pinter. The director, Brooks Lindberg, was inspired by a director who combined the works of his favorite playwright, Samuel Beckett, into one big show. 

“Both plays feature two men, and in each there is an underlying tone of menace and suspense,” said Lindberg, a junior majoring in theater, of the piece he is directing. “Though they are similar, each is a different experience, but it felt right to combine them into one play.”

Lindberg is a transfer student from Snow College and has directed a few musicals and full-length shows in his hometown prior to enrolling in the advanced directing class. 

“This class has given me a great opportunity to really hone in on style, whereas the previous classes were focused on technical aspects,” said Lindberg. “I love directing because it gives you the opportunity to create, and it’s one of the ultimate forms to communicate.”

A satire of a Tennessee Williams play will be performed under the direction of Ashley Underwood, a junior working on a bachelor of fine arts in acting.

“Christopher Durang took a beautifully-tragic tale from Williams and put a funny spin on it,” said Underwood. “I personally prefer dark comedies, something with serious content but makes you laugh at the same time; however, as much as I love Tennessee Williams, I liked the idea of something that made fun of the work.”

Kaitlyn McDonald, a junior majoring in theater education, is directing a piece by Eugene O’Neill. It is the story of a man struggling with depression and his friend’s attempts to pull him out of a dark place. 

“The play explores the small things in life, the joys and the sorrows that make a difference,” said McDonald. “I thought this had a really powerful message to it, something deeper that is not expressed on stage often, and I wanted to share that message.”

The final piece of the student-directed plays is by written by American playwright and actor Sam Shepard. Director Jackson Simmons, a junior working on his bachelor of fine arts degree, will have the actors in white and the set will be devoid of all possible color. Only at the end will color be introduced when something big happens. 

“This piece questions the meaning of human existence and what communication means,” said Simmons. “Communication breaks down a little bit in the show and illustrates the value of good communication.”

The plays feature an “A” night and a “B” night to showcase all six works. “A” night will be performed Tuesday, April 23, and Thursday, April 25, and features the plays by Sam Shepard, Eugene O’Neill and USU undergraduate Skye Orchard. “B” night is Wednesday, April 24, and Friday, April 26, and features short plays by Harold Pinter, Edward Albee, Christopher Durang and the improvisation piece “The Herald.” 

Both nights are rated “M” for mature for strong language. These plays are free and open to the public. For more information, visit the CCA Box Office in room 139-B of the Chase Fine Arts Center, go online to or call 435-797-8022.


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