Not even the gloomy weather could keep people away from a very special performance at the Black Box Theatre this past weekend. Guests were both entertained and surprised by the very first season of Studio 3, a night of one-act plays directed and designed by UMBC students.
Of the two plays performed, first up was “Gidion’s Knot,” directed by Serafina Donahue. This play follows an intense exchange between fifth grade teacher Heather Clark and single mother Corryn Fell following her son Gidion’s suspension and tragic suicide. This entire play took place in Heather Clark’s classroom, the set for which had and impressive level of detail. Everything from colorful posters to a stack of textbooks in each desk were included. Shadowed by sound effects of rain and thunder, this play felt tense and ominous even before the actors said a single word.
What was equally as impressive were the performances by the two main actors. Keri Eastridge’s portrayal of Heather Clark made the audience sympathize with her character. There was a tangible struggle between the character’s calm demeanor and the height of her emotions, which is something that Keri executed quite well.
On the other side, Alex Reeves’ portrayal of Corryn Fell truly brought her character to life. The battle between her grief and anger were evident from the first line and Alex’s combination of those elements delivered a complex and multi-faceted portrayal. Putting these two characters together resulted in a performance that felt much like an emotional punch to the chest.
Balancing out this emotional performance was “Sister Mary Ignatius Explains It All For You,” directed by Ally Kocerhan. This hilarious play follows Sister Mary Ignatius as she haughtily explains the ins and outs of the Catholic faith, but is interrupted by a group of her disgruntled past students. Like with the first play, this set had incredible detail. From the four illuminated crosses along the back to the wooden podium at the front, everything felt authentic and church-like.
This play was unique in that it included the audience. Before the play began, theatre attendants came around handing out blank index cards to anyone who wanted to write down a question for Sister Ignatius. Throughout the play, the actors talked directly to the audience, interacting with them and asking them questions. It gave the room a fun, lighthearted atmosphere.
Abigail Funk gave a hilarious performance as Sister Mary Ignatius. She opened by silently walking out and splashing the front row of the audience with holy water. Her antics and delivery of silly lines in such a serious manner had the audience in stitches. She constantly called for her student Thomas (played by Steven Gondre-Lewis), who excitedly answered her odd questions and was rewarded with cookies. The arrival of four of her past students (played by Jessie Gilson, Piper Ockershausen-Hall, Chaz Atkinson and Tobin Frevert) brought her teaching methods into question as they each revealed disappointing elements of their lives. Hijinks ensue and by the end there is only one student remaining, Thomas holding him at gunpoint and Sister Ignatius napping in her chair. The combination of these talented actors and their portrayals of the characters make this hilarious and quirky play come to life.
Each one of these plays was beautifully thought out and executed. From the design to the sound effects to the acting, each element brought these productions to stunning life.