Winter Fringe exhibits student talent

Kellie Wambold

The UW Oshkosh theater department will exhibit student talent as it hosts student-directed one act plays in its Winter Fringe Festival on March 10-12. During the year, the department produces several shows directed by theater professors but as part of their senior projects, three students have selected plays to direct themselves. “It’s strange being a director,” director Matt Nielsen said. “I’m so used to being on the stage.” Nielsen is directing “A Number on the Roman Calendar” by David Johnston, while director Bradley Skonecki and Andrea Ewald are directing “Graceland” by Ellen Byron and “I Rise in Flame, Cried the Phoenix” by Tennessee Williams, respectively. “A Number on the Roman Calendar” is a satirical look at the second coming of Christ. “Graceland” explores the relationship two women develop while fighting to be the first one to enter Elvis’s mansion on opening day. “I Rise in Flame, Cried the Phoenix” is the only drama for the evening and it deals with a fictionalized version of the death of author David Lawrence and explores man’s frailty. Actor Garret Johnson said the audience should expect a wide range of emotions and reactions to the three shows. “The audience is in for a wild ride and the roller coaster of these shows is something no one wants to miss,” Johnson said. Ewald said this mix of comedy and drama offers a variety of characters for the audience to relate to. “These characters, while being larger than life, exemplify the facets of humanity that we all struggle with everyday,” Ewald said. All three directors are veterans of the UWO stage, appearing in shows such as “Clybourne Park” and “Our Town” and have all taken a step back to look at every element involved with putting a show together. “Directing is looking at the overall picture and taking the whole show on a journey, while acting is more focus on your personal character,” Skonecki said. Nielsen said he will apply a lot of what he has done as an actor to the way he directs. “As an actor you’re only responsible for yourself but as a director you’re responsible for everyone else,” Nielsen said. “It’s basically doing what you do in your head as an actor but you apply it to everyone else.” Ewald said directing allowed her to take part in every part of the process, including set, costume and sound. “As an actor, you have a very specific and intense job,” Ewald said “As a director, your focus is a lot more broad, but more creative.” Ewald said when it comes down to it, the director and actors are working with the same material to create a new world. “All we have are the words of the playwright and the vast world of our minds and our experiences to color the words,” Ewald said. Skonecki said directors and actors take different journeys, but the final destination is the same. “I would say that both the director and actor have a goal to tell a story and bring it to life,” Skonecki said. Actress Mary Margaret Clementi said she’s gained a deeper appreciation for directors after watching other students go through the process. “As a director, they’re in charge of molding the play from beginning to end,” Clementi said. “It takes a lot of work to mold a masterpiece and I appreciate them more now.” Actor Parker Sweeney said he has enjoyed working with the student directors because of the different approach they have toward the shows. “I wouldn’t say there’s much of a difference between professor and student directors other than it’s definitely a younger way of approaching the show,” Sweeney said. The Winter Fringe Festival runs from March 10-12 at 7:30 p.m. at the Fredric March Theatre.