“Babies with spoons full of oatmeal in their mouths could do this better,” first year McAlister Grant yelled while directing his “Farragut North” cast through vocal exercises before rehearsal. “Farragut North,” which opens on Thursday, April 25, will be the first production under the Windmill Theatre Company.
The production company is the result of the Student Theatre Company Building Tutorial run by thesis student Erin Jayes. The tutorial – composed of five theatrically inclined students – is sponsored by Professor Nova Myhill, who Jayes said, “is giving [them] a lot of support”.
The ultimate goal of the tutorial is to create a lasting community theatre company for students at New College.
“We are trying to show the administration that we are passionate enough, organized enough and talented enough, for theatre to be worth their time, energy and funding,” Grant said. “The administration wants to support theatre, but they have to see that the organization is there.”
In the past students have tried and failed at creating a lasting drama department at New College. The students, aware of the struggles, kept the challenging nature of their goal in mind when naming the production company. The windmill imagery in the name evokes both the traditional four winds symbol of the school but also the windmills of “Don Quixote” – who pursues ideals thought foolish and impossible by others.
The Windmill Theatre Company recognizes that they have an immediate advantage on past attempts by having the Black Box Theatre – which has only been operational since January 2011 – as a performance space. They are confident in their chances of success, thanks to their organization. They wrote up a constitution for the company and use consensus to make decisions.
“We aren’t just doing this for ourselves, but for anyone who comes to New College and is interested in theatre,” first-year, and tutorial member, Erika Folk said. “We’re investing in the future.”
Earlier this month the tutorial hosted a lighting workshop with Robert “Bob” Robins who was the lighting designer at the Hippodrome Theatre in Gainesville.
So far they have a had a promising start, with more than 20 people consistently showing up to their Drama Club meetings every Wednesday. At these meetings the company begins by playing theatre games and then talk about future projects, like the upcoming variety show.
“Farragut North” will be the first show under the Windmill Theatre Company.
When the director, and tutorial member, McAlister Grant was asked if this added any extra pressure he said, “Absolutely, I think this is going to set the tone for whether or not people want to be involved … I’m pretty sure, though, that people are going to see this and say ‘I want to get involved.'”
When Grant was searching for a play to direct in the spring he had a difficult time finding a one that had a predominantly female cast and would match the disproportionately female student body.
What he did find was ““Farragut North”,” a political drama, which he could – for the most part –cast gender blind. Because of this, the play, which is originally written cast with six men and two women has been cast with five women and three men.
The cast has been rehearsing since December for the upcoming four shows.
“I love my entire cast, they are great,” said Grant. “The process has been stressful but ultimately a lot of fun,”
The lead, first-year Michael Valdez, and the rest of the cast can be seen in the colorful posters advertising the play around school. Because of limited seating in the Black Box, Grant wanted to do four showings. The Student Allocations Committee (SAC) paid the performance fees for three of four showings – Grant paid the fourth out of pocket.
Students who are interested in reserving seats should e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.