Student Body

Hofstra University, 2017

written by Frank Winters

directed by Peter Charney

For my senior undergraduate thesis project, I wanted to create a unique experience for my cast of peer while giving myself  the challenge of working on material that was out of my personal comfort zone at the time. I was introduced to Student Body, by Frank Winters, which was a new play that only had a brief off-broadway run at The Flea and one other collegiate production. This gave my peers and myself a chance to tackle a sensitive play with a difficult topic (sexual assault on college campuses), while working closely with the playwright throughout our process. 

 

Throughout our rehearsal period, we heavily incorporated Anne Bogart's Viewpoints Technique as a way to build ensemble and establish a common language among the entire cast. The basis of viewpoints work relies on impulse; that nothing is falsely created and everything is only reactionary. The individual viewpoints gave the actors a toolset to pull from and the terminology to be able to describe what they were doing onstage. The first time we worked with the text in rehearsal, after about a week of ensemble and viewpoints work, I sat the cast in chairs in a circle and told them to do an “impulse run” using the circumstances we had established over our first week. Within five lines they were out of the chairs, performing the play with full conviction. 

 

Much of what happened in that first run ended up in their performances. We simply expanded on those impulses and explored the ways in which we could specify the character dynamics and relationships to tell the strongest story. Our discoveries led to the choice that we would not have any fixed staging. Instead, our ensemble became so confident in their characters, their relationships, and this story, that I could put this cast in any location and the production would remain in its truest form; emotionally and physically driven by impulse and an understanding of the world we built.

 

Creating a safe space for everyone in the room to share their ideas and explore their imagination ultimately led to the success of this particular production. This process has been a reference point for everything I've made since.

Check out a teaser I directed for the show:

Video/Photos by Peter Charney 

 © 2020 by Peter Charney

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