By: Samantha Connelly
Senior, Jordan Mathis, directed the play ‘The Actor’s Nightmare’ which aired on Saturday, Dec. 12.
“My big goal in life is to study theater education and become a theater teacher myself,” Mathis said. “I’ve been wanting to direct a show for about 2 years now, and it’s always fascinated me, just the idea of directing.”
Mathis has participated in the theater program since his freshman year, being in every musical and one act play since then. Mathis played Curly in the 2020 spring musical, Oklahoma! and Ophelia in the fall play of Hamlet. He is considering furthering his theatre education career at University of Chicago, University of Texas, or West Texas A&M.
When he read through the play, Mathis said he thought it was a cool concept and that he’d like to put it out there as his own. Mathis and assistant director, Madi Sipe, looked through many plays during the summer. Kyle Martin, faculty theatre advisor, gave Mathis and Sipe ‘The Actor’s Nightmare’ by Christopher Durang as a suggestion.
“The original idea was to do a show with just freshmen,” Martin said. “I’ve done this before where we take a show for new faces, people who are freshman or new to the department, to give them something to do.”
The show opens with George, played by Alexandra Shewmaker, backstage of a performance that he has no recollection of attending. Throughout the whole play George finds himself acting in many plays.
“I love the relationships and how you’re a character who represents an actor who’s trying to save the scene.” actor Caleb Irwin said, “I think that’s a really cool concept.”
Mathis and Martin also wanted to take the show to the National Thespian Festival but due to the different circumstances of the festival this year, that was not possible. The cast and crew also wore masks during the rehearsal process and the performances to keep everyone safe.
“I went in knowing full well that I had to do this differently because of COVID,” Mathis said, “I think the whole thing was just me having to be innovative and creative with how I directed in the first place.”
Instead the show was recorded and was streamed for $5 to reflect an actual physical performance. The actors also had microphones that recorded their voices that were added to the video recording to make sure their voices were heard.
“It was cool to be taught from an actor’s perspective, and also I guess it was more personal because it’s someone I’m closer with than the directors.” Irwin said. “I guess it just felt more like he was giving us tips more than directing us.”
This was a very new experience for Mathis because he’s always been directed instead of directing. The actors and crew members also had the new experience of their peer being the authority figure.
“And it’s a weird line, trying not to be bossy just because I don’t like being bossy,” Mathis said. “but also I have a respect and relationship with these people so I didn’t want to become like an impartial dictator while I directed.”
Everyone involved in the production is close to Mathis, which made them uncertain about how constructively they would work together.
“Working with Jordan was actually more productive than I thought it would be,” stage manager, Mia Flores, said. “But it was very important to him that the show went well.”
The rehearsal process lasted seven weeks, they took a week off in between to focus on the fall show Hamlet. The whole cast and crew played a part in the Hamlet production as well, and they are all accustomed to performing live theatre rather than recorded.
“Just figuring out the way the camera would work and the way that we all had to act,” Irwin said, “It was an interesting way to do it but it was sort of confusing for a long time because I didn’t know where we were acting to.”
The technicalities of the play was said to be slow as well as frustrating at times for the crew. Cast and crew said it was a difficult process but the outcome was satisfactory in some of their opinions.
“I felt like everyone knew their responsibility and they did it, and even if you really didn’t do it well you were still forgiven for it.” Irwin said. “It was a great atmosphere.”