The Department of Theatre & Dance and Drew University Dramatic Society presented The Debut Set Oct. 20-22, 2022. Three shows were presented: “Night Vision” by Dominique Morisseau directed by Medina Purefoy-Craig (‘24), “Ron Swoboda’s Wish” by Anna Ziegler directed by Kris Perez (‘24) and “I Am an Emotional Creature” by Eve Ensler directed by Alivia Salls (‘23).
The student directors are from the advanced directing class, THEA 345. This class includes students directing a short play that allows them to learn through practice and problem-solving. Each play reflects something personally important to each director, and the stories highlighted different people within our community.
The first play, “Night Vision” directed by Purefoy-Craig, was performed by Mikaylah Mitchell (‘23) and Khyri Fortenberry (‘24). Questions of race and violence are portrayed brilliantly in this play. The scene shows the aftermath of a couple, Ayanna and Ezra, witnessing a sudden violent attack against a woman while walking down the street at night. The play begins with the couple in their home arguing over what they saw after the pregnant wife, Ayanna, reports the incident to the police, describing the attacker as wearing a sweatshirt and a person of color. Her husband goes on to question her description as he remembered it differently. So, what color is the sweatshirt and the complexion of their skin? The characters are confused and questioning their memory of the attack. Ayanna thought the attacker was a person of color but was that just an assumption? What did this assumption mean? Should her husband have run after the attacker and left her pregnant and alone? If Ezra goes back out there, will he be mistaken as the attacker since he has a sweatshirt on and the same color of skin? Purefoy-Craig’s directing forced the characters and the audience to consider these tough questions.
The second play was “Ron Swoboda’s Wish” directed by Perez and was performed by Jordan Weisblatt (‘25) and Michael Indovina (‘25). This heartwarming play showed an interaction between a man on the autistic spectrum Jacob, and his twin brother, Jason, the day after their birthday. Jason was dumped by his boyfriend and just wanted brotherly support from Jacob, who was spitting out baseball facts from decades ago. Jason struggled to find the support that he desperately wanted. This amazing representation of autism gave a look into an example of the mind of a person who is on the spectrum. Jacob wanted to support his brother but did not know how to show his understanding of anger and regret except through baseball statistics that represented that emotion. At the end of the play, Perez directs a scene in which both brothers’ minds are at a baseball game and the outside world is silent. This is when Jason finally understands and falls into his brother’s unique support.
The final play of the Debut Set was “I Am An Emotional Creature” directed by Salls. The actresses in this play included Raya Smith (‘25), Kristie Andino (‘25), Pippa Gerber-Stroh (‘23), Margaret Riley (‘23), Kyriaki Kyrkopoulou (‘24) and Rachel Cabrera (‘25). This emotional piece highlighted the stereotypes and expectations of being a woman. It discussed heavy topics such as suicidal ideation, abortion, eating disorders and sexual assault. The play moved from one scene to another portraying differently uncomfortable women that made them question everything. It showed the feeling of helplessness in a world of expectations. When asked why she chose this play to direct, Salls said, “I am really passionate about women’s rights, and also I connected so much with so many pieces of the story.” This is specifically seen at the end of the play when the actors remove their outer clothing to reveal words that describe stereotypical women written on their bodies. The actors then go into a dialogue of being more than just the adjectives given to women. This was a moment of fighting back against the stereotype.
These three amazing plays challenged stereotypes and created an opportunity for the audience to reflect on a variety of themes. All three of these performances drew out the emotions of the audience and showcased an amazing set of plays. To catch other performances by Drew University Dramatic Society, follow them on Instagram at @dudstheatre. Their next performance is Oct. 31, 2022, for the annual showing of “The Rocky Horror Picture Show.”
Featured photo courtesy of Mikayla Maisonett. A scene from “I Am An Emotional Creature.”