Students stage 'Dora' at northeastern theatre competition

imageWhile many SUNY Oswego students were on winter break, some theatre students were pursuing a big break, presenting “Dora: A Case of Hysteria” at the Kennedy Center American College Theatre Region II Festival competition.

Only six productions from the mid-Atlantic region were selected for full performances at the event, Jan. 15 to 19 in New Paltz.

SUNY Oswego senior Trevor Franklin directed the student honors production, a dark comedy about one of Sigmund Freud’s most infamous case studies. Franklin said he knew that Kennedy Center representatives, who visited for the show’s run in November, were impressed. When he learned the renowned festival wanted to showcase it twice, he immediately called cast and crew to start working again.

“I was excited,” said Allison Kleber, who played Dora. “Trevor said, ‘I hope you didn’t throw away your script.’”

Nathaniel Angstrom, who played Freud, relished “the rare opportunity to revisit a major production.”

The play would need major changes to fit a different space. But since “Dora” originally unfolded with only three weeks of rehearsal, Franklin was confident everyone could meet the challenge.

The dimensions of the New Paltz space meant they could no longer perform the play in the round, which meant changes in stage design, movement and interaction. Moreover, moving to a larger space and different setup removed the intimacy of the lab theatre, which Franklin thought was a real strength.

In the original run, “we could talk normally and be heard,” Kleber explained. “Now we really had to open up and act more expressively.”

Coupled with a sparse set and only three characters, which also included Evan McNear as Papa, Angstrom said it required “more aggressive acting because we had to fill the space.”

Franklin praised sacrifices made, as many students returned to campus early to take the show on the road. Around 20 students and faculty—some paying their own way—went to New Paltz to pull off the production, Angstrom said.

Despite all the challenges, Franklin was very proud of how the New Paltz shows went. “The actors really stepped it up another level,” he said. “There was a sense the second time around that the cast was making the show their own. They had confidence to make the show even better.”

No more than two productions from any region are nominated for nationals, and while “Dora” was not selected, participants were happy with their efforts.

“I felt like Trevor and the technical designers gave us everything we needed,” Angstrom said. “I felt confident and in control. I think it was a national level show.”

“Dora” seemed an underdog production, competing with colleges that are regularly nominated, follow specific formulas and use well-known playwrights—unlike Oswego’s little-known script adjusted on the fly and “an hour long and texturally repetitive,” Angstrom acknowledged.

But just getting this far put the SUNY Oswego program more on the map, Angstrom explained.

“I was really proud standing there when Trevor got a plaque,” he said. “People were standing up, applauding. People who have their own ideas about theatre said they were impressed with what we’ve done.”

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PHOTO CAPTION: Re-stage directions—Director Trevor Franklin (center) works with actors Nathaniel Angstrom and Allison Kleber in a rehearsal for the re-staging of the SUNY Oswego student honors production “Dora: A Case of Hysteria.” Cast and crew came back together to present the November show at the Kennedy Center American College Theatre Region II Festival in New Paltz in January.

(Posted: Feb 07, 2007)