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Senior Elena Creed directs stu­dents for her upcoming play.
Lillian Quinones | Col­legian

“Actors ready?”

“Ready,” the stu­dents under the stage lights said.

“Actors go,” senior Elena Creed replied as she paced the audience rows in Markel Audi­torium with the dis­cerning eye of a director. 

Creed is in her final stretch of directing “An Italian Straw Hat — A Five Act Comedy With Song,” which opens April 25. Over­seeing a cast of 16 actors, an original music score, and a tech­nical crew, Creed chose one of the most demanding senior projects for her theater major. So demanding that within the last 20 years, Creed will be the fourth theater major to undertake such a chal­lenge. 

“Directing a full-length play is a huge respon­si­bility because every­thing for a director is a com­promise, as you move from the the­o­retical into the realm of what is pos­sible. It has to be the right student with the right prepa­ration. Elena has that,” said James Brandon, chairman and pro­fessor of theatre and dance and Creed’s faculty advisor on her senior project.

Creed’s senior project began last April when Brandon handed her a large binder of plays to peruse. Laughing as she read the script for “An Italian Straw Hat,” Elena chose the French vaude­ville play for its humor. Thinking of her stressed-out student body in the final weeks of April, Creed said she wanted to provide stu­dents with an oppor­tunity to “blow-off steam and forget about all the things they have to do.”

“It’s really a fun play with lots of mis­taken identity and slap­stick humor delivered by fan­tastic actors,” Creed said.

Written in 1851 by French play­wrights, “An Italian Straw Hat” orig­i­nally fea­tured a music score of popular songs of the time period. Creed’s pro­duction of the play fea­tures an entirely original score written by stu­dents. Among the three student com­posers is senior Jonathan Hen­reckson, Creed’s stage manager, primary com­poser, music director, and also her boyfriend. In his words, he’s “her man that does whatever needs doing,” and he com­posed ten of the sixteen songs. 

“Elena is very good at what she does. It’s been amazing to see her work with actors and really get them to think more deeply about their char­acter,” Hen­reckson said. 

It’s exactly this trait which lead actor John Szc­zotka values in Creed’s directing. 

“She’s a very smart director, and although I’ve taken many theatre classes pre­vi­ously, she has taught me a couple new things, espe­cially with acting mono­logues, which is some­thing I’ve always struggled with,” Szc­zotka said. 

As a freshman, Szc­zotka appre­ciated Creed’s talent for cre­ating com­munity among the cast members.

“Elena is a perfect middle for a student-director, with an easy-going attitude that allows us to bond as a cast, but also not afraid to call someone out. I would like to say that everyone in the cast is my friend and Elena has been instru­mental in cre­ating that com­munity,” Szc­zotka said. 

Although Creed is entering the most demanding final weeks for a director, the high-stakes envi­ronment guar­antees invaluable life lessons, Katherine Denton Pomerantz ’14 said. Also a theater major, Pomerantz student-directed the full-length play “Woyzeck” for her senior project in the spring of 2014.

“Directing ‘Woyzeck’ was one of the most valuable things I ever did. I learned how to jump into a project, get really involved, and keep an entire team focused on a goal; those are killer skills that I imme­di­ately used in starting my own business after college,” Pomerantz said.

Speaking from her own expe­rience, Pomerantz encouraged stu­dents to attend the play because student pro­duc­tions are “real passion-filled projects” that reflect an ambi­tious student director. 

“I wish all the love and respect in the world to Elena and her cast,” Pomerantz said. 

Per­for­mances begin next week with show­times at 8 p.m. on Wednesday and Friday and at 2 p.m. on Sunday in Markel Audi­torium. No tickets are required.