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SUNY Plattsburgh Theatre Students Direct Production of Ionesco Play "The New Tenant"

Imagine being an undergraduate in theater and being able to direct your own professors - seasoned Equity actors - in a show.

This is exactly what happened in "The New Tenant," the performance that kicked off the college's 2009-2010 theater season. The one-act production featured students and faculty members K. J. Roberts and Laura-Jean Schwartau-Swanson '79.

Easy Fit for New Students

The play was the idea of producer/set designer Kurtis Rivers. Rivers, a senior theater major, knew how intimidating the theater scene could be for new students. He felt that a play, kicking off the year, could help ease jitters. Furthermore, he felt that the casting of faculty in some of the roles could go a long way toward introducing the department as a welcoming place to be.

He coupled the play with a talkback session that allowed audience members to interact with the cast and crew, asking questions and learning about the department and the play at the same time.

For the actors, getting to interact with faculty members in this unique way was fun, said senior Mason Merriam, who played a mover in the play.

"It's kind of neat to get to know them and to see what they are actually like when they are working on a show," said Merriam.

A 'Family Troupe'

Senior Anthony Gallucci said he used a unique approach when it came to directing the performance.

"I wanted very much for it to be a collaboration between the theater faculty and students," said Gallucci, who noted that often times a director will come in and tell actors how to do everything.

"I wanted it to be more of a collaboration. 'Let's sit down and read the play and see how it works.' So we did that," said Gallucci. "We're more of a family troupe putting on a show rather than a director as a separate entity."

As far as the faculty members involved go, they said they were humbled by the chance to work on the show with the students.

According to Schwartau-Swanson, they realized that the students were volunteering to give up some plum roles, all in the interest of helping others to better see what the theater department has to offer.

"It was really neat," she said.

A Sampling of Things to Come

Both Rivers and Gallucci said that they hope their example will be emulated in future years.

"I found, especially in the theater department, that if you really apply yourself to something and show interest, the faculty here are really supportive and try to help you out as much as they can," said Rivers.

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