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Student Directors Helm Two PHS Productions This Month

A flyer for the Proteus production of a pair of plays directed by students.

For the next two weekends in March, Pittsfield High School’s theater department is presenting plays directed by students.

John Monteverde has been the director of Proteus – the PHS drama program – for three years. This month, he’s trying out something new. After presenting the musical “Newsies” in the fall – a production that featured almost 40 actors – Proteus is now staging a pair of short plays with comparatively lean casts of around 8 to 10. Both will be directed by students.

“They’re both kids with exceptional leadership skills and a lot of theater background for both of them, a lot of performance background," Monteverde told WAMC. "Olivia certainly through her dance and through musical theater, Jacob through acting in theater and some musical theater as well. These kids have a lot of experience, and were really ready to take that next step. But it is pretty advanced level, and this is the first time I think we’ve tried this at PHS. So hopefully it will become a regular thing we’ll do every other year.”

“My idea is kind of to let the actors try and start doing what they think feels natural and then going off of what they naturally did and making it more suitable to what the show needs," said Olivia Kriedeman-Hubbard. "So I try and let them do the directing and then me just guide them.”

Senior Kriedeman-Hubbard is one of the directors. In the fall, she was a lead in “Newsies.” Now, she’s taking on “The Real Inspector Hound,” a one-act play by Tom Stoppard.

“It’s a murder mystery," she told WAMC. "It’s kind of a play inside a play. There’s a murder mystery happening on the stage and some people from the audience get dragged into it, and I guess you’ll have to come see it to find out what happens after that.”

“So, I am directing ‘Black Comedy,’" said Jacob Jamros. "It’s a British sex farce that was written in the Sixties.”

Jamros – also a senior – is the other student director. He was attracted to Peter Shaffer’s one-act play for its physicality and humor.

“It is about an artist, a sculptor, who’s trying to impress not only a very famous art collector who’s coming to view his art, but also his fiancé’s father who will be coming the same night," he explained. "And he has stolen ass of his neighbor’s very nice antique furniture to try to impress these two people, and then the lights go out. A blackout ensues. And all of a sudden his neighbor is back and he has to move all of the furniture back in the dark.”

He says he directs his cast from the perspective of his own experience as an actor.

“I found that the most useful thing for is I give them homework assignments where I’ll have them write a character biography," said Jamros. "I’m all about character. So I have them try to live with their character as much as possible. That way their character is informing the decisions that they’re making on stage. And then as they are rehearsing I tend to pepper them with questions, and I’ll ask them, well, why do you walk over here at this particular time? Or, why do you say this to someone? What are you trying to do to the other person when you say this? And then I let their answers to that inform their performance.”

Kriedeman-Hubbard and Jamros will act in each other’s plays as well as directing their own.

“We’re like a family," said Kriedeman-Hubbard. "We do a lot of things together. Overall, I think we’re a really committed bunch of people and everyone’s very talented and I think we do a good job of supporting each other. I don’t think it would be possible for me to direct a show or for Jacob to direct a show if people hadn’t been supportive of us and our desire to direct shows.”

“The Real Inspector Hound” and “Black Comedy” run the next two weekends at Pittsfield High School.

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