The Linfield theater department’s fearless production of the controversial playwright Sarah Kane’s “Crave” last spring has been selected to perform the piece at this week’s American College Theatre Festival Region VII Conference in Moscow, Idaho.
As one of four plays selected to perform at this year’s conference, Linfield has earned distinction among schools from the eight states that comprise the region, including Alaska, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Oregon, Washington and Wyoming. If the performance goes well, “Crave” could be selected to perform at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C.
The conference, held Feb. 16-20 at the University of Idaho, is an annual destination for Linfield thespians, but, as senior participant Afton Pilkington said, performing an entire show is an opportunity that seldom comes around.
“Crave,” directed by Janet Gupton, associate professor of theater arts, is the department’s fifth play to be selected in 20 years; the other pieces selected were originally performed at state universities.
Cast members attribute the show’s success to its ability to draw out strong emotional responses from its audience members.
“It touched a lot of emotions for people,” senior cast member Trish Castaneda-Gonzales said. “There is no middle ground in terms of [audience reception]. They either hate it or love it.”
Pilkington said that although Kane’s original work was essentially dramatic poetry, festival officials who attended the show during its run last spring appreciated the adaptations the cast made. She said additional dialogue and plot points helped make the characters more real for viewers.
ACTF officials annually attend each performance put on by the schools comprising the region, providing constructive criticism for students involved with the show.
Castaneda-Gonzales said working on “Crave” again has allowed her to put some of these suggestions into practice and, as a result, add more layers to the portrayal of her character.
Aside from individual improvements, cast members said the extra time spent on the piece has allowed them to work better as an ensemble.
“We’re able to make more connections [on stage] and not just concentrate on our interior monologues,” Castaneda-Gonzales said.
Because they have been working with “Crave” for more than a year, the actors have made an effort to keep the play’s material fresh, Pilkington said. For example, the cast said it tried to deliver lines in new and different ways.
Efforts to adapt to the different stage setup housed at the University of Idaho have also provided new challenges that keep the cast motivated.
For example, the show’s blocking had to be reworked to compensate for a space that is more than three times the size of Linfield’s theater.
“We’re working for a bigger house,” Pilkington said.
The cast has been working on speaking louder and emphasizing gesticulation as a result, she said.
Junior Will DeBiccari and Linfield graduate Caleb Kearns round out the four-person cast.
This group will be joined by other students from the Linfield theater department at the conference, who will participate in acting and design competitions, as well as attend classes on specific aspects of theatrical performance taught throughout the week.
Cast members of “Crave” were eager to take part in the conference and learn about aspects of theater not included in the Linfield curriculum.
“The classes are taught by other professionals with other opinions and views,” Pilkington said.
Last year’s conference included seminars on movement, voice, improv, kissing and stage combat, among others.
Castaneda-Gonzales said participation in the conference’s acting competitions has the potential to open doors in the field after graduation. The connections made there, she said, can lead to future auditions and even recommendations for graduate school.
“Crave” won preliminary conference awards for lighting, sound, set design, ensemble acting, acting and direction.
Castaneda-Gonzales, DeBiccari and Pilkington have been honored with nominations to compete in the Irene Ryan Acting competition with the potential to win a scholarship.
Seniors Tess Malone and Matt Cantelon have also been recognized as student designers involved with “Crave”’s production, received awards, respectively, for lighting and sound design.