Starting in February, the New York Film Academy Los Angeles (NYFA-LA) Acting for Film department kicked off their series of workshop productions featuring plays directed by the students themselves.
The season kicked off with the first two plays—Dead Man’s Cell Phone by Sarah Ruhl, directed by Michael Gum (BFA Acting for Film) and Doll’s House Part 2 by Maame-Ekua Mensah (BFA Acting for Film.) Both plays were mentored by full-time NYFA instructor, Cathy Giannone.
“The Student Directed Plays are an experience that changes all that are involved,” states Giannone. “They are a valuable and important lesson in creativity and process. Everyone walks away having more confidence and a better understanding of the work.”
“I have learned quite a bit through directing Dead Man’s Cell Phone,” says student director Michael Gum. “As far as creatively, figuring out how to describe a vision in multiple ways so that everyone I am working with is on the same page. Because the play is fantastical, bizarre, absurd, and at the same time talking about real issues, finding the balance of worlds and keeping everyone in the same world is one of the elements that I think is most important.”
Gum adds, “I also think that there are two important themes in the play. One: that while technology can be used to form connections, an obsession with it can alienate. And two: The difference between loving the idea of someone and actually loving someone. To me, both these themes are very relevant to today, particularly for students and those working to get in the film industry.”
Student director Maame-Ekua Mensah had this to say about her experience directing Doll’s House Part 2: “I wanted to do this play to encourage the audience to take a stand on their own opinions in the future, while still being able to see the logic in others’. The play discusses old perspectives on feminism, love, marriage, and commitment. We currently live in a society where it’s easier to agree with everyone because we are unable to keep the peace when someone has am alternative opinion. I believe people should be coming together, whether or not we have altering opinions, to advocate for the greater good for society. I believe that you can learn a lot from listening to your ‘opponents’ in life. Working on this play has also given me much insight on how to work with a cast and crew.”
The third Student Directed Play by the NYFA-LA Acting School was a production of In the Blood, by Suzan-Lori Parks, directed by Hattie Sallie (BFA Acting for Film) and Cathy Giannone.
In the Blood tells the story of a homeless woman with five children by five different fathers in a society pitted against them. Speaking about her experience directing the play, student director Sallie says:
“I wanted to do this play because at the end of it, I cried and in the midst of the crying I asked myself ‘why?’ I wanted to explore my place in society and how I treat people who can do absolutely nothing for me. Then I decided that this would be an amazing, timeless play that I could put up because I wanted to try my hand at directing and I wanted the audience to take a look at themselves as well, have the kind of journey I had while reading In the Blood.
“I learned so much from directing this play. I learned the importance of listening, hearing the writer’s intention, colors!!!. I think I have learned how to become a better actor because of it. I am so thankful for this opportunity because now I know the feeling of being on the other side of the casting process and how much I wanted the actors to come in and be ‘the one.’ I know how I loved when the actors came in prepared, when they worked with me, trusted me and not tried to be against me. I learned how much reading and replying to emails and text messages and notices are because I wanted my actors to let me know that they received all the information given.
“I learned the importance of rehearsal—how you rehearse is the way you will perform—and how to communicate with actors, how to bring in the energy and uplift them when they needed encouragement. I could go on and on but I will leave it at: This was one of the best experiences of my life!”
In the Blood star MFA alum Demyra Ravyne Payne has this to say about her fifth production she’s acted in: “NYFA gives not only its students but its alumni the opportunity to do work we couldn’t do anywhere else. “I am very thankful for all the support NYFA has provided me.”
Thurs. Feb. 28 7:30pm The fourth Student Directed Play of the winter season was an original work from NYFA Acting for Film alum Sam LaFrance: Lost Boy, who also directed it, mentored by full time instructor David Robinette.
The play tells the story of a man responsible for kidnapping a handful of children twenty-two years prior being released from prison.
“I saw a few Student Directed Plays and figured this would be a good opportunity to workshop one of my own projects,” says writer/director LaFrance. “It’s a great opportunity for anyone who loves theatre. You are completely immersed in it and that’s an amazing feeling.”
The final Student Directed play of the winter season was Tartuffe and was performed earlier this March. Tartuffe was written by Molière, translated by Richard Wilbut, and directed by Valerie Torres (MFA Acting for Film), mentored by full time NYFA instructor, Mary Sala.
New York Film Academy congratulates the student directors of the NYFA Acting for Film Winter Season of Student Directed Plays on jobs well done! Bravo!