By Joey Turner –
The last time you saw a play at Fitchburg State, did you wonder who chooses the plays to be performed on campus, and why certain plays get picked? It is up to the University theater professors Kelly Morgan and Richard McElvain to make the call.
Fitchburg State has showcased compelling plays throughout the years, such as productions of “Boys Next Door”, “Laramie Project”, “(Sacco-Vanzetti) Vince, Al & Teddy” and the acclaimed performance of “Romeo and Juliet”.
There’s still the question of why an announced play is chosen when competing against dozens or thousands of others.
McElvain said, “We choose plays based on who is in the casting pool that we know. What do they need? How many women and men? We try to do a Shakespeare every two years.” He related that the decision also hinges on “what Kelly [Morgan] and I are excited about directing.”
Morgan states, “We choose plays that we feel would serve students’ performance needs, for those who wish to be professionals as well as have an impact on the greater student body because of its message.” The professors generally aim for plays that would challenge their students’ acting capabilities, while simultaneously trying to reach out and grab their audience with themes that leave intellectual and emotional impacts.
Morgan and McElvain strive to make eclectic choices. McElvain stated their selections stem from, “everywhere” including “classical, contemporary, or new scripts.” Morgan added they consider a range of possibilities from, “plays that have been successfully produced or new plays from innovative writers such as (Sacco-Vanzetti) Vince, Al & Teddy.” The pair will take any production that looks interesting to them no matter their origins; they can come from licensed companies such as Samuel French, Inc., Dramatists Play Service, or from inventive playwrights who wish to have their works performed in an amateur theatre before aiming for the bigger leads.
One of the University’s most notable plays included the Winter 2012 production of “Romeo and Juliet,” an age-old Shakespearean classic about two young teenagers from rivaling families. Most of us know the story: the star-crossed lovers fall in love, only to find death as the only solution if they wish to be together. This particular production was directed by McElvain, with the fights coordinated by Morgan. The performance ended up earning Fitchburg State University a place in the Edinburgh Festival Fringe in Scotland, and was praised for telling the story through a new perspective- one that seemed fresh and modern.
What does the future hold for theater on campus? In May 2013, there will be a performance of “Dog Sees God: Confessions of a Teenage Blockhead,” which is an “unauthorized parody” by Bert V. Royal. It is about the “Peanuts” comic-book characters such as Charlie Brown and Linus as teenagers, dealing with issues such as drug use, suicide, eating disorders, teen violence, rebellion, sexual relations and questions of identity. These drama productions offer more than entertainment, because they showcase struggles that are relatable to the audience.