From Nov. 16–19, students in the Rutgers-NJIT Theatre Arts Program showcased their semester-long ventures at the Warren Street Theatre for The Directors’ Project 2022. Each evening, 11 different one-act plays directed and performed by students were presented under the coordination of Emily Edwards, university lecturer for the program.
Multiple classes were involved with the creation of this project. “The directors from my Directing I class are responsible for finding plays they personally resonate with, coming up with visions for their pieces, and working with designers to realize those visions,” Edwards said. “They are also in charge of running auditions, casting their shows, and rehearsing them.”
Students in stage management worked on the technical and communication aspects of the project, and the production students helped build sets, hang lights, and run crew for the shows. In addition, there were over 20 student actors from NJIT, Rutgers-Newark, and Essex County College.
Dariel Angeles, third-year communication and media and theatre arts major at NJIT, directed a play called “Words, Words, Words” by David Ives, which focuses on the infinite monkey theorem. The production ponders what monkeys would talk about if they could speak.
“On one of the nights, one of the props went missing. While I shriveled up and stressed out, the actors improvised around it! Seeing them form that strong camaraderie and ensemble really made my heart flutter,” Angeles said. “It is my first time being listed as the sole director of something, which is a feeling I know won’t get old.”
Fourth-year NJIT theatre major Reynaldo Cobarrubias directed “The Checkout Line” by Austin Hendricks, a comedy about the generalization of groups of people. While stuck in a grocery store line, a human asks a ghost questions about their personal life and about their ‘kind,’ offending the ghost.
“I’m honored to be a part of this project as a director, production crew, and a bit of voice acting. I’m also a bit saddened by the fact that it’s over. After three weeks of auditions, rehearsal, and show, it feels as if I need to find another thing to do now,” Cobarrubias said. “It was my first time being in The Directors’ Project or any production like this.”
Iris Lewis, second-year theatre arts major at NJIT, directed a play about couple debating whether to leave their New York City apartment and buy a house with a history of a horrible murder — it’s titled “New Horizons,” and was written by Edward Einhorn.
“I think the connection I made with my actors was one of my proudest moments; as an actor myself, I wanted to be for them a director they were comfortable with,” Lewis reflected. “For both actors, this was their first time doing a live theater performance. So, to watch them break out of their shells and add their own flair to their characters really made me smile.”
The most difficult aspect to deal with for her was not seeing exactly what she envisioned in the beginning when she first read the play happen on stage, or even during rehearsals. “It wasn’t too disheartening; it felt more like a discovery of how others perceived it,” she added.
Third-year NJIT theatre technology and communications major Evyn Garcia directed a play called “Two-Timing Bread” by Ryan Bultrowicz. It covers the story of a silent piece of bread caught cheating on his girlfriend. “What follows is on-stage discourse and violence, some of the core aspects I value in my entertainment,” he remarked.
“One of our actors happens to be an inanimate, completely mute loaf of bread. This proposes many challenges, the main ones being timing, proper reactions, and towards the end, some genuine puppeteering,” Garcia explained. “I know I was a bit nervous to direct, knowing that the actor I am directing has had prior theater experience working with much better directors than me. In that regard, it could be intimidating, but overall, even after the long grueling hours and having to work stage crew, I’d say we had a jolly good show.”
Miles Joseph Bardzilowski, sixth-year theatre arts and technology major at NJIT, directed “A Llama Stole My Heart” by Jen Browne. It follows two sisters attempting to make funeral arrangements for their eccentric aunt.
“I was an actor in The Directors’ Project 2020, but being a director this time around was a whole different experience. I’ve created something that’s mine, and in doing so, I’ve contributed to a patchwork of things that are ours. It’s awesome,” he said. “The process of bringing it together was stressful and exhausting at times, but now that it’s over, somehow, I can’t wait to do it again. Is this what having kids is like?”
From Rutgers-Newark, Veronica I. Papianni directed “Date with Death” by Steven Hayet, Franchesca Orteva directed “Moon Falls to Earth” by Gina Femia, Brandon Greenfield directed “Omit the Reference to the Unspeakable” by Duncan Pflaster, Alyson Fernandez directed “187” by Jose Rivera, and Urja Vyas directed “The Fugly Train” by Duncan Pflaster. NJIT student Christian Gonzalez directed “There Is No Try” by Dean Haspiel.
Some of the local playwrights came to see their shows performed at the theatre and met the directors and actors involved. “That was the cherry on the top of the project, and I was so glad that could happen. It’s important to make the connection between the words on the page and the face of the human who wrote them,” Edwards said. She also mentioned that the playwrights were elated with the project results.
“I’m delighted to see it all come together — to see the directors, stage managers, actors, and crew be so proud of their creations — to see their families and friends recognize all the work that they put into it,” she added.