By: Kelsey Sivertson
Imagine if theatre operated like film. As the production wrapped, how many of us would sit through someone narrating the names and titles of all who worked on it? Okay, maybe a few of us would because getting up and leaving while someone is speaking is rude.
We don’t leave time to think about how that story couldn’t be told without the collaborative efforts from a multitude of creators, that extend deeply beyond what’s presented to us on opening night.
As a transfer student new to college theatre, I had no idea the powerhouse that is required to put on a production. All of that changed over the last nine weeks. This semester, I had the honor of being invited to participate in a 490 project, which operates as a capstone project for theatre majors. This 490 has many forms, but the form that producers Lydia Konings (’24), Rachel Scott (’24), and Katy Smith (’23) chose is a full team of students running the show from the writing to the performance. The entire production team was student-led, with the help of the stellar Hope College Theatre Department Faculty as guides.
When I had a discussion with the director, Katy Smith, she shared how the entire process was done in just five short weeks. This seems daunting, but regardless, she said, “We were excited by the idea of a time limit. What can a bunch of talented and creative students do in five weeks? This is us finding out.”
Back in the fall of 2022, Smith was in the theatre department’s directing class. This gave her the tools that she needed to even consider taking on a full production. From here, the producers assembled a production team whose responsibility was to collaborate on a vision for the production. Casting the initial vision for the production team was Smith.
“I got the chance to direct for the fall semester’s round of directing scenes […] Nothing is like directing a fully produced show with a group of women and non-binary artists I love. It’s been a learning curve, but a great one,” said Smith.
Smith also served as co-playwright, which is where my participation lay. Over winter break, the first official week of production began, and it was writing week. Over the course of seven days, Katy and I wrote the hour-long play.
After writing, came casting and production meetings. When it came to a team of designers, the producers utilized a list of experienced students, whose skill sets run the gamut.
Rachel Scott was also the Stage Manager on top of producing. The Stage Manager is responsible for the coordination of all production meetings, rehearsals, and scheduling throughout the production process.
“Working in such a small time frame as both a producer and stage manager was a challenge. Stage managers often have more than 3 weeks of rehearsals before they open the show so I made sure to adjust my experience to this new timeframe. Getting to work with so many of my valued peers was wonderful as they are all so talented, hard-working, and creative,” said Scott.
Costume Designer Lili Fraser-Shade (’24) was responsible for all clothing utilized in the production. From designing the attire, as well as fittings for the actors, Fraser-Shade ensured cohesion in the little details. “’Pomegranates’ has been an amazing collaborative experience as an artist and designer. I’m very grateful to work with friends and great minds on such a beautiful piece, and have the opportunity to make some of those characters come to life through their dress,” said Fraser-Shade.
Cecilia Casper (’24), off a stint serving as the lead in Hope’s Spring Production of “The Revolutionists,” served as the Scenic Designer. Casper’s responsibilities included designing, drafting, and constructing the set for the production. “Designing gives you an entirely new perspective on theatre. It’s been incredible to put the skills I’ve learned the past three years from class and working in the [scenic] shop to the test. You really are learning as you go, and every day brings a new challenge despite all your perfected drafts, plans, and schedules. Getting to work professionally with my friends has also been such a treat, and an experience I am grateful to have been granted. I’ve loved every second!”
On top of producing the play, Lydia Konings also served as Lighting Designer. In her designer role, Konings designed the lights for the production which included drafting the light plot and creating lighting cues. “Getting the opportunity to serve as the lighting designer for this production has truly been a wonderful experience. Letting my creativity fly, trouble-shooting, and honestly just playing with those around me– what can be better than that? This experience has allowed me to explore a part of theatre that I have always wanted to, and I am proud of all the work that we have put into this.”
Katie Rae Hayduk (’23) and Ava Bell (’26) served as Sound Designers. Their responsibilities included any sound cues for the production as well as pre-show music.
Hayduk said, “I’ve enjoyed getting to combine my love of music and theatre from a design perspective for the first time. I’m really glad that I got to collaborate with so many talented and dedicated artists on a project that I’ve come to be so proud of.”
“Getting the opportunity to design as a freshman was an unexpected experience that I am endlessly grateful for. Sound designing with Katie Rae was a joy and I am so happy to have worked on this production with so many wonderful and passionate people,” said Bell.
Audrey Kunce (’26) participated as the Prop Designer. In her role, she was responsible for all props in the production.
The performers for “Pomegranates Underneath” are also students. Charis Snyder (’24) plays Margaret. Freddie Baker (’24) plays Dawn. Ruby Hlathein (’26) plays Seph. And Adam Chamness (’23) is the voice of Thomas.
“This show experience has been unique to anything I’ve done before. The professionalism has been astounding, especially when I realize how close we all are in age. The rehearsal rooms have been a great place to scream, laugh, and play. Embodying a new character for the first time with the direct help of the writers has been incredible as well. I feel a closeness with our cast, directors, and crew that makes this project feel cohesive. I am so impressed with how much we’ve accomplished while balancing our student lives,” said Snyder.
Collectively, this group of people has put hundreds of hours of work into this production. And even though on opening night, what you will see on-stage are three performers, underneath that performance is the blood, sweat, and tears of the people listed above. The only way performers get to do what they do is because there is a brilliant team creating the world in which these performers can act their guts out.
Good art isn’t created in a vacuum. Good art requires collaboration and connection, not only connection to the world around us but to the people around us. To be a part of a department teeming with gifted and experienced individuals who all share a passion for creative performance and a passion for collaboration is a gift this newbie doesn’t take lightly. It’s a look-around-and-pinch-yourself kind of experience. And it’s an experience you should come and taste the fruit of.
“Pomegranates Underneath” opens this Saturday, April 1, at 7:30 pm in the Studio Theatre, located in the basement of DeWitt. There will be two shows Sunday, April 2 at 2:30 pm and 7:30 pm. Tickets are $3 and can be purchased at the door.