Series gives novice directors a new opportunity

Howard Live

September 23, 2005|By Ruth L. Tisdale | Ruth L. Tisdale,sun reporter

After performing as Blanche DuBois in the Howard Community College spring play, A Streetcar Named Desire, Ashanti Cooper looked forward to the next school year and improving her craft. As the fall semester approached, Cooper received a call that would give her an unexpected opportunity.

"They called me up and asked me if I would be interested in directing in the upcoming reading series," said Cooper, a 23-year-old student at Howard Community College. "I'm always looking for a new experience, so I accepted."

Cooper, who be directing a comedy about a folklore legend in Stagolee by Terence Cooper, joins other students and alumni of HCC in participating in the second reading series of the year, starting tomorrow.

Janelle Broderick, assistant production manager at the college, said the overwhelming success of the series in the spring paved the way for a return engagement.

"The show's sold out every time, and we thought that it would be good exposure and a great opportunity for student actors," said Broderick, who will be directing the play Martha's Choice by Rich Espey. "We knew that the springtime is the big season for theater, so we wanted to hold this in the fall so students can have more exposure."

The uniqueness of the series and the interaction between audience and cast members are reasons for the success of the series, said Michael Wood, the arts and humanities production office supervisor.

"Play reading is like watching a television pilot," said Wood, adding that he will be directing Regret Like Ours by Brian McDermott. "After every reading, the audience members can drink coffee and talk to the cast members and give feedback."

Readings in the three-weekend series vary from comedy to melodrama. Playwright Bill Stanley said he found inspiration for his piece, No News is Good, after hearing of the apprehension families feel for loved ones serving in Iraq, particularly when watching media coverage.

"One of the scenes in the play is a woman, hiding under a table with a remote control in hand, watching the television," said Stanley, who will be directing two other plays.

Stepping outside his administrative duties to follow his dream of directing is one of the things Wood enjoys about the experience.

"To take this new piece that you get and direct it is great," Wood said. "As a part of my job, I'm the resident costume designer, but eventually I want to direct."

While Cooper welcomes the experience of directing, her heart still belongs to the stage.

"It was hard getting the actors to comprehend what I wanted them to do," Cooper said. "I always had an appreciation for what directors did, but this experience made me appreciate directors even more."

The reading series will be held at Howard Community College's Theatre Outback, starting Saturday and running every Saturday and Sunday through Oct. 9. All shows will start at 2 p.m. Tickets are $5 at the door. Information: 410-772- 4940.

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