T4 One-Act Plays Take the Stage


Photo by Christina Lindstrom

The cast of UNIS’ production of David Ives’ “The Philadelphia,“ directed by Matthew (Matt) Leichmam, T4. Photo by Ms. Kiara Downey.

By Holly Jenvey, Section Editor, Opinion

Last November, three T4s presented their self-directed one-act plays, ushering in a whole new level of responsibility for IB Theater students.

IB Theater teacher and Drama Department Team Leader, Ms. Kiara Downey, first announced the project to this year’s T4 theater class in the spring of last year. Last semester, the plan was executed: Students Matt Leichman, Christina Lindstrom, and Alison Swinth directed a series of one-act plays, which they had studied in class.

For the past three years, the Theater Department has offered T4 students the additional opportunity to direct one-act plays, supplementing the IB Theater curriculum. “This program was initiated primarily to give IB students experience as directors, and also to provide opportunities for Tutorial House actors to perform in a variety of plays that are overseen by their peers,” Ms. Downey said.

The directors collaborated with the UNIS community to see their visions come to life. IB Music students provided live music; Tut House biology teacher Mr. Kahn helped with set design; and Middle School guidance counselor Mr. Smith and the Art Department made props.

Matt Leichman was the first of the three student directors to put on a play. Matt’s production of David Ives’s “The Philadelphia” debuted on November 2nd. The play tells the story of a man who finds himself having to speak in opposites in order to get what he wants. When asked why he chose this play, Matt said, “I had acted in a play by David Ives before called ‘Soap Opera’ and I really liked the quick comedic style. I’m also very interested in theater design and its premise allowed for experimentation.”

Matt thought that the directing process was especially challenging due to the fact that he did not have an assistant director; as a result, the cast became more involved in the production of the play.

David Sazdic, a T1 cast in the play, said, “working with Matt was a great experience. We were able to relate to him more than we could with adult directors. We didn’t feel restricted around Matt. If we didn’t know something, we were comfortable asking him. Matt was both an actor and a director, so he understood the ins-and-outs of theater. We had no reason to be self-conscious.”

“The Philadelphia” was a great success, and premiered to a full audience with an encore performance on November 15th.

Alison Swinth directed “Naomi in the Living Room” by Christopher Durang, which premiered on November 14th to a full house. The play revolves around the uncomfortable family reunion of a mentally unstable woman, her son and his wife. “[The directing process] was stressful. Most importantly, I learned the importance of the complicated pre-production process. If you don’t have one, it is difficult to turn a vision into reality,” Alison reflected.

Christina Lindstrom, T4, is directing Robert Scott’s play “Checkmate,” in which a dysfunctional marriage quickly devolves into something much more sinister.

Christina was inspired to adapt the play by her interest in the complex and fragile nature of romantic relationships. “I like toying with the idea of illusion versus reality; often times on the surface things may appear calm, but in actuality there is boiling hatred festering in both people.”

Her biggest takeaway from this project was the realization of the complicated and demanding role of the director, whose vision ultimately shapes the play. “Checkmate” will have its first performance this spring.

Commenting on the future of the T4 one-act plays, Ms. Downey said, “We do hope to continue this tradition at UNIS. Audiences rave about the plays that the T4 directors produce, and we would love to offer as many leadership opportunities to IB Theatre students as possible.”