Stony Batter Presents Spring Scenes May 7
Mercersburg Academy’s Stony Batter Players took the stage May 7,for the annual Spring Scenes productions. This was the first time students had performed Spring Scenes since the COVID-19 pandemic began. The performances took place inside the Hale Studio Theatre.
To start the night, students involved in Stony Batter Players were joined by a select group of students from other performance group activities (PGAs) in performing a 40-minute abridged version of Much Ado About Nothing by William Shakespeare. Matt Maurer P ’18, ’20, ’22, ’23, director of arts programming and an English faculty member, directed this adaptation. Maurer notes that he chose this particular Shakespearean comedy because “the comedy holds up pretty well as opposed to other plays, and it is always fun doing classical scenes.”
Although the cast was a mix of Stony Batter members and students from other PGAs, Maurer notes how easy and enjoyable the rehearsal process was. Because Stony Batter members involved with the performance of Matilda: The Musical were still rehearsing at the beginning of the spring term, the Much Ado About Nothing cast included several students not in the musical who were interested in acting. As for the casting process, Maurer says, “Casting kind of took care of itself. [I] gauged the comfort level with the amount of lines people wanted to say and their previous acting experience; we did some scene readings, and went from there.”
After Much Ado About Nothing, audience members were shown an incredibly exciting variety of short plays. Kelly Dowling P ’21, ’21, ’23, head of the arts department and director of theatre, directed two short plays: Arden of Feversham, a comedy written anonymously about two bumbling assassins hired by a wife to murder her husband; and Kill Me, Please!, a dark comedy written by Rhea MacCallum about a woman pseudo-stalking someone to ask a violent favor. Uniquely, Arden of Feversham was presented as five short scenes interspersed throughout the entire Spring Scenes program.
On top of these high-energy and suspenseful scenes, there were two student-directed plays: Glamping, directed by Riley Schermerhorn ’22, about an urban couple in the woods who cannot set up the tent; and Playwriting 101: The Rooftop Lesson, a lesson in playwriting with a twist ending, written by Rich Orloff and directed by Linden Amster ’23.
“Being a student director is a completely different experience than acting in scenes,” Schermerhorn explains. “As a director, you have to think about all of the major creative decisions and really see the show as a whole, something that is a little less critical as an actor. [Directing] also gives me the opportunity to work closely with my peers in a different capacity.”
Amster shares a similar view on the excitement and responsibility of being a director: “Being a student director is a very enlightening experience,” he says. “Having plenty of experience as a performer, being able to direct a show offers a view into the other side of things and what it takes to direct a show.”
Dowling notes that this year, the process for choosing scenes was very interactive: “Students reviewed various scenes, mainly from compilation books, and chose the ones that they liked most.” Moreover, students actually reviewed and chose their own parts as a group in a no-audition process, taking into consideration everyone’s preferences and performing style. Dowling also emphasizes, “I think the best part of Spring Scenes is the shorter scripts allow for real acting-technique work. I think our students are often surprised at the depth of character they find in these little scripts that can feel very superficial when you first read them.” Because Dowling is a self-proclaimed text-focused director, she recalls that in Spring Scenes, as well as other productions, “I like my actors to find all the clues to building their characters in the provided words, and then expand from there.”
See the Spring Scenes web page for more details about each short piece.
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