Many students don’t know much about what goes on in Mago Hunt behind the scenes of the plays they attend. The Beacon sat down with Theater major Natalie Mecham to get the inside scoop on her production “Boom”, the directing capstone project and being a theater major at UP.
Can you tell me a little bit about what the thesis is about and what the performance is about?
“Boom” was written by Peter Sinn Nachtreib. He studied biology and theater in college and he talks about the play as his attempt to meet in the middle between those two worlds. He feels like biology and theater are both trying to make sense of the world in an epic and intimate way.
In the show, the three characters – Jo, Jules and Barbara – are consumed by trying to get their footing in this world that keeps spinning and spinning. And that’s terrifying because they know that it’s going to move on unchanged even after they’re gone. During the show, they’re looking for a way to survive after they’re gone.
The situation, at first, seems a little sitcom-y a little silly, but the circumstances and the stakes turn out to be vastly higher than ever anticipated.
What goes into making a thesis? What is your part in this?
For my directing capstone, I had a month in which I was meeting with faculty talking about shows and talking about what was possible for space. The show being held in the Mehling Theater is really exciting and challenging. We were exploring what the space is capable of.
Once I settled on a show, there was a lot of time spent on asking, ‘Why this story? Why now?’ I had a lot of preparatory writing I had to do and some contextual research. I was trying to figure out what I wanted to say.
What was it like working with a production team?
I had a meeting with the designers where I talked about what popped out for me within each character. Jo is visceral and instinctual. Jules is practical and logical. Barbara is big and splashy.
Then, the designers mull this over with their own artistic perspectives. The costume designer looked at the structure and uniformity in Jules and we talked about how it would make sense for him to wear plaid. I talk a lot with the designers about what things feel like and how aspects of the world and characters translate into their design.
It’s tricky because you want to give them a direction but you don’t want to prescribe. I’ve tried consciously to work alongside them and not do their job, because they do their job a lot better than I would.
And working with the actors?
With the actors, casting was really hard. I was low on the totem pole for shows- the two main stage shows are very large casts.
Oh man, I got lucky. I got so lucky, holy cow. The people who I ended up with just got it. I needed people who understood that as extreme and surreal as the circumstances are.
Jo, Jules, and Barbara are very real humans. They’re not a joke. I needed people who could embrace the circumstances, live them, laugh at them and go big with them but at the end of the day, know that it was real. So I got very lucky. I got three smart people.
What’s it like now that you’ve finally reached the end product?
We’ve been rehearsing since the beginning of February, We’ve been getting to know the play, dating the play, courting the play, wining and dining the play. All too soon, we’ve gotten it up on its feet, which is super weird. I’m at this time where it’s my 10th night starting my homework at 11:30 p.m. and I’m so tired my face hurts, but then I go to sleep for four hours, wake up, and the show is going to open tomorrow. It’s bizarre but very exciting.
What’s it like to be a Theater Major at UP? Why did you choose UP?
The theater major here is a bachelor of arts program, which basically lets you get to know the whole world of theater. I think that’s crucial because you’re reliant on so many different jobs and people to make one production happen.
People are going to see “Boom” and come away talking about the three actors, but there are 20 people who have sweat over this show to make it happen. When there are no promises for a job in theater, it helps to get hired for multiple things.
Being a theater major can also be really tiring. I get flack from my friends who are engineering majors about us not having any work, but I spent about 20 to 25 hours a week in rehearsal and meetings for this show and then outside of that I have all my coursework. It’s very time-consuming.
You have to love it and you have to be a little nuts about it to care that much. You don’t see anyone saying, “Yeah my mom wanted me to get a job after graduation, so I’m a theater major.” You see people who are there because they love it and that’s a great group to work with.
Just like your characters who are looking towards the future, what do you want to do with your future?
As the playwright says, the world is an epic and intimate universe with millions and millions of options. To a degree, I’m still figuring out which option is right for me.
I intern at a bilingual theater doing literary management. I teach preschool. I really love teaching and working with people in that way. I’d love to be a director of education at a theater, maybe a children’s theater. I’d love to get younger folks connecting with theater and understanding what it can do for you.
Story from the Beacon. Written by: Rachel Rippetoe