Student talent featured in the Witness showcase

By RUDY MALCOM | May 3, 2018

B3_Witness
Courtesy of Sharon Maguire

Witness Theater presented their spring showcase in Arellano Theater on Thursday, April 26, and Friday, April 27. The show, produced by junior Sarah Linton, featured five 10-minute student-written, student-directed plays.

Linton explained that the spring show is traditionally a challenge due to space limitations. In the past, Witness has put on a 24-hour show, but this season’s showcase allowed some novice actors and directors to gain experience. (A 10-minute show is a more manageable commitment than a full-length play.) 

This allows busier or perhaps less experienced students to get involved. For example, freshman Reid Bradshaw was in charge of Lighting Design.

Linton elaborated on the advantages of staging in Arellano.

“It’s a black box theater, so it’s very flexible, which invites people and directors... to push the actors to really work with the material of the play instead of relying on props or a really fancy set,” Linton said. 

Technical Director senior Ryan Kunzer echoed these sentiments. 

“Since there’s not a whole lot else going on, it really focuses in on them,” Kunzer said. “It’s a very intimate space.”

Floor Scrub, written by junior Jaeyoung Lee and directed by junior Matt Mullner and sophomore Brandon Lim, depicts a televised interview between Stephanie (senior Elizabeth Winkelhoff) and competitive floor-scrubbing champion Alex (sophomore Enrique Oliva).

Alex doesn’t share Stephanie’s enthusiasm, however. The tone in which he says “happy to be here” gives Eeyore a run for his money. 

At the commercial break, Stephanie sheds her bubbly exterior and compares Alex’s personality to “wilted spinach.” 

He says that he just wants to be able to enjoy floor scrubbing as a hobby, but Stephanie needs their interview to be interesting so that she can be promoted to government reporting. 

When they return from the commercial break, the hilarious Camera Operator (freshman Aidan Smith) pans to them, and the two deliver the fake smiles of a prom couple planning on breaking up within the week. Eventually she challenges him to clean the whole studio.

While doing so, he confesses that he feels his life “trickling into nothing.”

“How is it that the only thing I’m good at is a fucking household chore?” he asks.

But after Stephanie storms away and the Camera Operator puts down the camera, Alex seems to find purpose. The Camera Operator calls Alex a “master craftsman.” 

Although Alex previously deemed a magically powerful bleach solvent an “impossibility,” the Camera Operator tells him that Alex had unknowingly created it long ago. 

Alex takes on the Camera Operator as his first apprentice and advises him on how to maximize torque. 

Stephanie reenters and apologizes.

“We’re all just trying to do important work, something meaningful,” Alex says before she cuts him off.

Floor Scrub was an entertaining satire of sports coverage and attitudes toward hobbies and professions. 

The second play, What Matters, written by sophomore Laura Oing and directed by junior Ceci Freed, also focused on an athlete — one who had been dead for almost a year. 

Freshman Becky Shade, who plays the deceased athlete’s volatile sister Haley, believes that interpreting others’ feelings is a valuable skill she’s honed through working with Witness.

“I experience sadness and anger so rarely that I had to dig all the way down to my ankles to find them,” Shade said.

But before Haley graces the stage, Eddie (sophomore Carver Bain) assures a Boy (Oliva) that everything will be okay. The Boy exits the stage as Haley arrives and sits down next to Eddie, who introduces himself.

“I’m... just here to see the principal,” Haley snarls, holding a hand to her black eye. But the voice in which she then says “I’m Haley” is kinder; she’s someone compassionate hiding grief under hostility, someone who nearly cries after reminiscing about the brother she idolized.

She explains that her teacher asked her, “Would Timothy be proud to have a sister who doesn’t even try anymore?” Outraged, she slammed her locker, which gave her a black eye. She’s waiting for the Principal (Winkelhoff) because she threw her shoe at someone who laughed at her. 

She displays another moment of sensitivity when she expresses desire for a sign from Timothy. 

After the principal summons her, Eddie takes out a newspaper, which, according to Shade, reveals that Eddie is also dead. The Boy reappears and takes a blue raspberry lollipop (Timothy’s favorite flavor), explains that he’s saving his visit for another day and leaves a ball on the bench for Haley — all of which confirm that he’s Timothy. Haley can’t help but finally smile when she finds the ball waiting for her.

The play had a well-crafted progression and made excellent use of comic relief. Eddie’s delicate pauses while talking about Timothy hint at a romantic relationship between the two and were a nice touch.

But perhaps I’m just making up a story, as Julia (sophomore Nayanika Iyer) and Olivia (freshman Zubia Hasan) do in Garbage Game, written by freshman Cristina Fernandez and directed by freshman Sana Kamboj. 

They create competing narratives about jousts and Dorito-bag-measured athleticism to explain objects in Olivia’s yard — from bubblegum to a bong — that Tracy (junior Caroline Halligan) and Scott (freshman Michael McEvoy) act out. 

The show was an amusing and creative representation of the power of the imagination. Hasan gave an electric performance. 

In the third play, What We Talk About When We Talk About Not Wanting to Fuck Each Other, written by senior Isaac Lunt and directed by senior Sharon Maguire, Greg (junior Sam Norwood) tries to use his imagination to set a romantic mood with his girlfriend Sid (senior Kelsey Harper). 

He sings and dances along to Marvin Gaye’s “Let’s Get It On” and goes so far as to ask her if they “should bang.”

She reveals that she’s too stressed and doesn’t have the energy.

“I’m broken. My vagina’s gonna withdraw into itself until it reaches my throat and suffocates me,” she says. 

He responds by telling her about his erectile dysfunction.

“We should be more open with each other. It sounds so stupid and obvious now that I’ve said it,” she says as they embrace. The couple’s rawer moments, including a food fight, made this mildly cliché ending more endearing.

The final play, First and Last, written by junior Giovanna Molina and directed by Lunt, also emphasized the use of specific moments to portray relationships. 

First, Walter (freshman Jonah Facciolli) meets and consoles Karen (senior Emily Su) in the movie theater. Next, Karen stands at Lisa’s (sophomore Julia Bernal) bedside in the former’s apartment. It is revealed that Karen had been upset because Lisa told her that she had cancer during the film’s opening credits. Their various emotions about the discussion of the diagnosis are well-wrought.

In the next scene, Walter and Karen consider their breakup and Lisa’s death; I would’ve appreciated more context. 

The final scene was a flashback in which Karen and Lisa first meet by bonding over a painting. I believe that I might’ve understood the symbolism more had the scenes been more developed, but the show was highly evocative nonetheless.

Winkelhoff commented on the beauty of Witness.

“It’s definitely serious and an environment that fosters creativity, which I really appreciate, but there’s also a level of fun and making theater fun for everyone,” she said.

Kunzer, also graduating this spring, remarked on a bittersweet aspect of the showcase.

“It’s really the next generation’s time to shine and our last chance to teach them what to do,” he said.

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