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Senior Arianna Gaiser will debut her theatre pro­duction, “Lies,” this weekend. Col­legian | Andrew Dixon

For senior theatre majors Ari­annah Gaiser and Sarah Nolting, pro­cras­ti­nation could not be the answer to their senior cap­stone projects. 

These projects were two years in the making, and though they were can­celled last Spring due to COVID, the shows will be available to all audi­ences this weekend, Feb. 4 – 6.  Nolting’s “Death and Renewal” will run Feb. 4 and 6 with per­for­mances at 7:30 p.m. Gaiser’s “Lies” will run Feb. 5 and 6 with per­for­mances at 7:30 p.m. and 2 p.m. respectively. 

Gaiser’s per­for­mance will be an hour-long play reading of “Lies,” which Gaiser wrote herself and draws on the film noir era of the 1930s. 

“I’m drawn towards film and TV, so, when I write you can even see it in a lot of my stage direc­tions,” Gaiser said. “I’m thinking very visually, some­times outside the con­straints of the play…I was actually inter­ested in taking some­thing that would seem to be more like a tele­vision show and put it on the stage to see a dif­ferent piece of art that you could create.” 

Gaiser’s play­writing journey started her freshman year when she par­tic­i­pated in an one-act play written by a senior that year.

“I really enjoyed it and was really proud of the student who did the work and I thought, you know, it would be cool to at least have the oppor­tunity to do some­thing like this,” she said.

Gaiser described the play­writing class as a great expe­rience which gave her “the chance to hone some­thing I had only done by myself before.” 

She studied under retired pro­fessor of theatre  George Angell, and said he was a great source of feedback. His advice helped her own her ideas and fight for her work, she said. 

“He would always preface his feedback with ‘this is my opinion’ and that will be any­thing anyone ever says about your work is ‘opinion’ and it’s up to you to decide whether you take it or not,” Gaiser said.

For her play, Gaiser sought to write a work that was highly stylized to give it a dif­ferent sort of feel than regular theatre. The plot revolves around two detec­tives, one of whom has the unique ability to detect lies, as they inves­tigate a mys­te­rious cult. 

“I wanted to see, what would a person who could tell lies be like in a world where it’s pretty normal to not be honest all the time?” Gaiser said. 

Playing alongside “Lies,” comes Sarah Nolting’s direc­torial debut, “Death and Renewal” is divided into two short plays titled “The Drunken Sisters” by American play­wright Thornton Wilder, and “The Exorcism” by Eugene O’Neill. Both run about half an hour each. Unlike its name sug­gests, “The Exorcism” has less to do with demonic pos­session and more to do with a deep catharsis expe­ri­enced by the char­acters, and by extension the audience. O’Neill’s play con­cerns a dis­il­lu­sioned young man whose friends seek to explain the beauty still left in the world.

Senior Sarah Nolting will debut her theatre pro­duction, “Death and Renewal,” this weekend. Col­legian | Andrew Dixon

“It’s really more like being exor­cised by the evils within you, not nec­es­sarily any­thing super­natural, but sadness and things like that,” Nolting said. 

“The Drunken Sisters,” is more light­hearted and meant to relieve the heavier tones of “The Exorcism” while still exploring the same themes of death and renewal. In it, the Greek god Apollo seeks to save the life of his mortal friend, King Admetus, and in the process encounters the ancient Fates, three immortals with the power to determine life and death. 

Both seniors said time was the main obstacle to their projects. Gaiser said that it was hard to figure out how the plot wove together, and then to write it in enough time. Nolting said that sched­uling issues around all the actors and their various classes and extracur­ric­ulars made it dif­ficult to find time to practice. 

In both plays, Nolting said she wanted to explore a “unique American per­spective” by asking the ques­tions: “how do we deal with struggles? How do we deal with suf­fering? Each play sort of responds in its own way, and each char­acter responds in their own way.” 

Con­cerning the audition process, Nolting said that she “was looking for people who would be capable of taking a script, were willing to mem­orize over break, and come back ready to take it on.” 

She said that casting and picking the right team of actors con­tributes to 80% of a director’s tasks. 

 “The most important job a director has is under­standing the play and exploring the pos­si­bil­ities of it,” Nolton added.