Spotlight shines on independent works of students

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Spotlight Performances, a student-run series of experimental productions, is set to debut Friday, Sept. 23.

The series marks the first time that Suffolk theater students are given complete creative control over their productions, with minimal faculty involvement. The program will give students a chance to work on material that is not polished or is still in early development. All technical aspects of theater, such as lighting, costumes and sets, are optional.

Spotlight was born in January, out of student demand, according to Modern Theatre Managing Director Jim Kaufman. Students with material that was more experimental or simply not ready for Fall Showcase, the Theater Department’s production festival, now will be brought to the stage.

Kaufman notes that students attending the Spotlight Series will not receive the same experience every night. Productions range from fifteen-minute scene explorations, monologues and script readings, to audience feedback-driven workshops.

The department faculty have agreed to use a hands-off approach regarding the shows, leaving rehearsals and casting completely to the students.

In a recent interview with The Suffolk Journal, Kaufman said, “the whole idea is to give them the platform.”

“Just Alright,” written by Dylan Amerena and directed by Erica Lundin, is the series’ first production. The 13-page script tells the story of Murphy, a high school student dissatisfied with his personal relationships with his parents and girlfriend.

Three actors will fill the six roles in the play and limited costumes and minor lighting effects will be employed. Lundin’s intent is to be as prepared as possible by the end of the four rehearsals that she and the cast will conduct. She and Amerena completed the casting in three days, taking to Facebook to find student actors available on such short notice. Despite the time and material constraints, Lundin, a Media and Film major, enjoys the creative freedoms afforded by the program.

“I like that we’re left to our own devices,” she said.

A comparison with “45 Reasons,” the second Spotlight production, exemplifies the originality the program promises.

Director Sara Kerr, having transferred to Suffolk from the American Academy of Dramatic Arts, brings experience to her workshop-oriented production. She believes the script drafted by Justin Smith will evolve with rehearsal through cast and crew contributions.

Kerr will hold an open casting for the show on Sept. 29, inviting students both with and without acting experience to audition.

The challenges of a budget-less student production do not dissuade her.

“I’m used to working with as little as possible,” Kerr said. “That’s what I expect.”

Kerr will also direct “Sperm Soap on a Rope,” another Spotlight Performance production, set to debut on Nov. 4.

Spotlight Performances will be held on six Fridays between Sept. 23 and March 24, from 4:40 to 6 p.m. in the Sullivan Studio Theater, on the 12th floor of the Sawyer Building. The shows are all free of charge, and will be followed by a reception including complimentary pizza.

Contact Sara Kerr at [email protected] for information about auditions for “45 Reasons” and Theatre Department Communications Manager Rosalind Beauchemin at [email protected] for general inquiries about Spotlight Performances.