Showcase shines spotlight on seniors

By Marty Dubecky, Multimedia Managing Editor

Senior theater majors Tessa D’Errico and Isabelle Trapp each directed their own shows in the Xavier Theatre during the last couple weeks of the semester: Gruesome Playground Injuries and Measure for Measure

Not only were they the last two shows of the semester, but they were each directed by a senior theater student. Measure for Measure, directed by Isabelle Trapp, is a Shakespeare play performed infrequently. Gruesome Playground Injuries is exactly what it sounds like, which senior Tessa D’Errico picked and directed.

Even though neither play was longer than 90 minutes, the planning, selection and production process took much longer, especially for Gruesome Playground Injuries

“Stephen Skiles, the head of the theatre department, first talked to me about directing a show for a new student showcase he wanted to try back in February of 2022. I read the script, watched other productions on YouTube and thought about what themes and messages I wanted to stress in our production, specifically while I waited for the process to kick off,” D’Errico said.

Photo courtesy of Tessa D’Errico

Senior Tessa D’Errico directed Rajiv Joseph’s Gruesome Playground Injuries, featuring Molly Franzen (left) as Kayleen and Sean Moss (right) as Doug. The play centers on the two’s developing relationship over thirty years.

The process was similar for Trapp. She first had to choose a play, which she knew was going to be Shakespeare. Then, she had to pare it down to fit into 90 minutes and include the main themes she saw as most pertinent and important. By the end of the summer, Trapp had cut 65 pages and 17 characters from the original script.

D’Errico explained the audition process for the shows, in which she and Trapp collaborated to find the actors most congruous with each play. 

“Isabelle and I held auditions together, so everyone brought in one contemporary monologue and one Shakespearean monologue. That was at the beginning of November. We waited until after Thanksgiving to hold callbacks, which is longer than we normally wait for callbacks, but it gave the actors a lot of time to look over the material and think about what they each wanted to bring to the characters,” D’Errico said. 

After callbacks, Trapp and D’Errico made their final decisions to send to Skiles, who released the cast lists a week after fall semester finals. The design teams were created based on student interest and availability.

Amid the spring semester when everything finally came into full swing, Trapp and D’Errico began their respective rehearsals. 

“These shows started rehearsals on the last day of February. With all of our breaks included, we had about a four-week rehearsal process plus tech which was three days. The process for Measure started with a first read through and then just talking about the show,” Trapp said about the rehearsal process. 

“It was really interesting as a director to hear my cast’s thoughts on the show and how excited they were to tell this story together,” she added.

As a culmination of the selection, rewriting and rehearsing, the completed shows were put on for two weekends. 

“What I’ve enjoyed most about the shows this weekend — besides the opening night sushi — is just how proud I am of my cast and crew. It was a mind-boggling feeling knowing that this team of my peers put their trust in me, and it paid off in the form of a beautiful show and applause. I seriously cannot thank them enough for their work,” Trapp remarked after the shows.

For the showing of Measure for Measure last Friday, Trapp invited English professor Dr. Niamh O’Leary to speak with her and three cast members  in a talkback after the show about the play and its prevalence today. They spoke about the #MeToo Movement, women’s bodily autonomy and all the challenges of putting on a Shakespeare play.

“Everyone stepped up to work together and did it with a fun and positive attitude. By the time the show opened, it really felt like we had built a team where every member’s work was necessary and appreciated, but also a team that could have fun together and celebrate each other’s success,” D’Errico added.