Essay, a 50-minute, three-person play by Canadian playwright Hannah Moscovitch, made its UCC debut April 25 on the College’s YouTube channel under the direction of Sam Moore and Aman Rizwan. It opened to an audience of 130 screens, most with whole families or multiple viewers watching. By April 29, views were five times that number.
“The actors did a fantastic job and a lot of it was their own energy that they brought to their performances,” says Moore, referring to Chris Noh and Kurt Karul, both in Year 12, and Emmy Voges from The Bishop Strachan School.
Moore first heard about Moscovitch from his theatre teacher, Dr. Dale Churchward. When Moore discovered that a Moscovitch play was being performed at the Tarragon Theatre, he suggested Rizwan join him at a performance. The students were enthralled and embarked on choosing a suitable piece by Moscovitch for student production. Essay is about a female student who wants to see women get more representation in history courses – and the way her professor and her teaching assistant react.
“From the first, we liked what the play was,” says Rizwan. “Being at an all boys’ school, we don’t get the female students’ perspective. A lot of Moscovitch’s plays have an important female voice and we thought it was a great topic to touch on.”
The co-directors put out a casting call, held auditions and chose the actors. Heather Crawford, the supervising faculty member, took a hands-off approach, unless her help was necessary. “They have complete ownership of the production,” says Crawford, who sat in on all the original rehearsals at school and the later virtual version.
Jim LaPlante, UCC’s executive director of information and innovation, assisted with the technical issues of unexpectedly bringing the production online. Alumni from the Class of 2007 James Graham and Justis Danto-Clancy offered artistic guidance. Ewan Maynes, a Year 11 student, served as stage manager.
“It all went beautifully and there were no technical issues,” Crawford says. “We've received comments about how well the play worked in a virtual setting, and a lot of people said they had family discussions afterward about gender politics and history."
While audiences found lessons in the play’s subject matter, Moore and Rizwan also discovered the challenges and rewards of directing.
“I learned that the role of director is not to dictate, but to discreetly guide the actors in the creative process,” Moore says. “I’d suggest goals and ask what they would do to work toward them.”
Rizwan says he learned to move away from being a member of a group to being a leader. He says, “I was more inclined to be part of a group, so it was interesting to take charge.”
The results speak for themselves.