When watching student productions, it’s easy to ignore the behind-the-scenes work that goes into creating a single show. From lighting and set design to casting and directing, every element of these productions is under the control of individual students. Off stage, many of these same players simultaneously spend their time enrolled in class, working part-time jobs, or participating in other extracurricular activities.
Hannah Kirby, a U4 Mathematics and Theatre student with a minor in music, is one of those studentsdirecting the last Players’ Theatre show of the season, Round Dance. It is her first time directing, but the third of four productions she’ll be involved in during the 2014-2015 school year alone.
“I wake up at five a.m.,” Kirby explained. “I’m working on two plays this semester and I have a part-time job [….] I [also] try to train at least once a week with [the varsity soccer team].”
With the play premiering in less than three weeks, Kirby is beginning to feel the pressure to bring everything together. Because Players’ was showing The Creation of the World and Other Business, the cast for Round Dance has had to practice in various other locations around campus—a task that has proven difficult to accomplish.
“We try to rehearse in SSMU, in the basement mostly, but there are always times when the room booking gets messed up,” Kirby said. “So there have been times where we’ve gone over to Sherbrooke 688 and looked for an empty classroom.”
Now that they’re beginning to move into the actual theatre space, however, a whole new set of problems has arisen. A primary problem is that sawdust causes the fire alarms to go off—a significant inconvenience when you’re trying to build the set. Technical problems are often rife in theatre spaces at McGill, but Kirby is remaining optimistic, if not realistic.
“I’m not really afraid of anything,” Kirby said. “I hope the technical elements come together well [….] I have so much confidence in my actors but sometimes the sound cue just breaks, or the computer breaks, the light stops working, and that’s when you have to improvise.”
Technical difficulties aside, Kirby’s enthusiasm for the play is palpable. Round Dance was written by Arthur Schnitzler in 1897, but Kirby believes the overall themes presented in the original script, along with her adaptations, will make it accessible for a modern audience.
“It’s a play that was written over 100 years ago, but it’s still very present today,” Kirby explained. “I am thinking a lot about the universality of the relationships that are presented in the play. In that sense, I like to think of [Round Dance] as timeless.”
As for her cast and crew, it’s all about working together and keeping things fun.
“I love meetings—communication is super important,” Kirby said. “My job is to know the play super well and be really present in rehearsals so that I can react to whatever they’re offering, whatever they’re bringing to the table, so that together we can bring it to the next level.”
While Players’ Theatre doesn’t follow a specific pattern in picking its productions—the directors apply with a show in mind—this year has come with easy-to-define themes and a series of strong performances.
“September—hilarious,” Kirby quipped. “October: Oh, What A Lovely War. Very interesting ensemble work, a different type of plot, really interesting themes. November was really philosophical and intense [….] I haven’t seen the January show yet.”
As for Round Dance, which will be showing just after Valentine’s Day, Kirby promised a topical show for the Hallmark™ holiday.
“It’s all about sex,” Kirby said. “It’s perfect for the broken-hearted. Perfect for the in-love. Probably better for the broken-hearted [….] It’s theatre—you have to be there.”
Round Dance will be performed from Feb. 18 to 21 and Feb. 25 to 27 at 7:30 p.m. at the McGill Players’ Theatre (3480 McTavish). Tickets are $6 for students, and $10 for the general public.