Senior Conner Gilbert’s theatre capstone is quickly approaching

By Abigail Meredith, Assistant Arts Editor

April is the time of fruition, the time when a project is realized, as senior theatre major Conner Gilbert knows. He has been preparing for Eleemosynary, his senior capstone production since summer of 2016.

The show will happen April 27, 28 and 29 at 7:30 p.m.; and the 29 and 30 at 2:30 p.m..

He, along with the stage manager, junior Theatre major Grace Wohlschlegel, discussed the production and how it was coming together.

Gilbert first explained what Eleemosynary was.

“Eleemosynary is a play written by Lee Blessing about three women in the Westbrook matriarchy-Echo, Artie, and Dorothea- and how they have impacted each other’s lives; for the better, and the worse,” he said. “Through narration and flashbacks, these women take the audience on a twenty-seven year journey of pain, loss, identity and love.”

He went on.

“Eleemosynary has a beautiful storyline that evokes empathy from others. The characters struggle to reconcile their desires with their responsibilities, a struggle that many can relate to. For our department, it has allowed some of the students to try their hand at designing in areas they haven’t before. Acting wise, these characters are very complex and nuanced which is an exciting challenge for our students.”

Grace Wohlschlegel, the stage manager, spoke on what made the show special.

“It deals with some very hard topics over an expansive time line. The nonlinear nature of the script is quite beautiful. Because of this, Conner has made the choice to divide the three roles into six by separating the characters into past and present.”

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The cast of Eleemosynary rehearses in Craig Dorland Theatre. / Courtesy Photo

This choice has affected the rehearsals themselves.

“Rehearsal have been going really well. Due to dividing the roles into past and present, we have done a lot of joint character work with the counterpart actors. It has been a lot of fun seeing them collaborate and get excited about their characters,” she said.

This production will be Gilbert’s theatre capstone, a concept which he explained for those not familiar with the theatre major requirements.

“The concept of a capstone is to take what you’ve learned during your four years here and put it to action in a large-scale performance. Some theatre majors put on their own performance, others design a fully-produced show, and some, like me, direct. There is also an academic portion to the capstone in the form of a thesis and usually a talk-back session with the faculty and/or audiences,” he said.

Wohlschlegel explained why capstones such as this were beneficial to students.

“Being a student director in college is highly beneficial and educational. It gives the student an opportunity to apply skills they’ve learned while working in a supportive environment with guidance from professors and encouragement and patience from their peers,” she said.

Gilbert gave a bit of insight into his personal experience.

“Since this is my first time directing a fully-produced play of this length, I am still learning as I go. The director has many responsibilities that lie outside of rehearsing, and executing those responsibilities smoothly has been challenging. Communication is key for every situation as a director, whether speaking with actors or designers, and effectively communicating my ideas is very important, as well as understanding others. Engaging my “director brain” can get pretty exhausting at times, but it’s worth the end result,” he said.

Gilbert shared his thoughts on the overall experience.

“Directing a show as a student is a terrific way to test your ability while still having the help of professors advising you along the way. You get the experience of being a director in an environment that will support you,” he said.

Wohlschlegel discussed what had already been accomplished.

“At this point there has been a large amount of design work, we have completed the set build and are moving forward in the process to actual manifestation of the design areas,” she said.

Gilbert shared he personally had done to prepare for this production, and how much work was still ahead.

“As director, I read many plays before finding this gem. After getting it approved, there was countless hours of research into the author, other productions of Eleemosynary, and critical analyses to broaden my understanding of this play. Multiple meetings happened with designers, and weeks-worth of constructing the set and props for the show, and we still are working every day,” he said.

Wohlschlegel ended with praise for the show and emphasized how beneficial senior capstones were to the OBU campus.

“Student directed shows allow a good representation of what OBU Theatre students are capable of and the level of career applicable education we are receiving. Eleemosynary itself is an astounding play which addresses a lot of hard issues and does so within a context of redemption through love.”

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