The energy is low-key in the William Allen Middle School (WAMS) auditorium on this particular Tuesday night. In a few days, the assembled actors will be performing "Eurydice" by Sarah Ruhl, an updating of the Greek legend. But at this quiet moment, they are trying to synchronize their schedules to get every last bit of rehearsing in before their first performance.
Synchronization is no easy feat for the actors this time of year, especially considering they are all current Moorestown High School (MHS) students, soon-to-be grads or alums who have come back eager to perform.
This dramatic presentation of "Eurydice" (premiering at 8 p.m. Friday, June 14) is a first for MoorArts, a nonprofit organization that puts on a musical each summer. According to Candace Coleman, MoorArts board member, there has always been a desire to do a “straight play,” but it wasn’t until Jane Schumacher, MHS alum and previous MoorArts scholarship recipient, wrote a proposal last winter, that the board decided to get involved.
The fact that a 19-year-old woman was bold enough to think she could stage an obscure play with a young cast intrigued me enough that I stopped in to the WAMS auditorium to speak with Jane. Why "Eurydice"? Why now? And is Moorestown ready for Greek tragedy with a modern twist?
Jane just finished her freshman year at the Mason Gross School of the Arts at Rutgers New Brunswick, where she took a class called Performance Ensemble. It was because of this class Jane was inspired to bring a similar approach to Moorestown. When she described the concept to me, her eyes lit up.
“Performance ensemble productions are entirely student-created. The students make the costumes or bring them from home," she explained. "The actors design the sets, hold the lights and collaborate on every aspect of their show. It really forces your creativity.”
As I watched the actors on stage, Jane explained why she had chosen to stage "Eurydice."
“Well,” she said, “it’s really a bare-bones kind of show. It doesn’t need a huge set and the lights can be minimal. Costumes, too. It also lends itself to a lot of collaboration—something actors aren’t used to.”
Jane pointed out to me she was not the director of “Eurydice.” The cast all offered opinions on how the staging should be and how their characters should be played. But to be fair, Jane ended up bearing the brunt of producing the show. She worked on public relations; she designed the artwork for the program. She wrangled equipment and borrowed whatever she could to keep the cost to a minimum. When I asked her if she was now more interested in directing or producing plays, she laughed.
“I’ve learned more doing this show than any other show I’ve been in. I’ve learned exactly what it takes to put on a show. I have a new respect for the production team and stage crew,” she said. She paused for a moment, as if to gather her thoughts, then continued. "But to answer your question, I am an actor at heart. I would still rather focus on one part as opposed to the whole.”
With the help of MoorArts, Jane and company will perform “Eurydice” at the middle school on June 14 and 15 at 8 p.m., with a matinee at 2 p.m. on the 15th. There is a suggested donation of $5 for students and $10 for adults.
One of Jane’s professors at Rutgers had this advice: “If you can’t find work, make it.”
That's exactly what these young actors are trying to do.