This week, justArts spoke with Ayelet Schrek ’17, the director for the Undergraduate Theater Collective’s production of The Love of the Nightingale, about the upcoming show.
JustArts: What motivated you to join the production of Nightingale?
Ayelet Schrek: When I saw For Colored Girls last semester—I’ve directed before—and when I saw For Colored Girls I realized that I needed to direct this semester. I went home and I read two plays. I read The Love of the Nightingale and I actually also read Ruined, funny enough. I decided I didn’t have enough ownership over Ruined, and I decided that I would propose Love of the Nightingale. Last semester, we had so many conversations in the UTC about gender and race, and I wanted that to be something that we continued talking about through theater. So I proposed Nightingale, and it happened.
JA: When you said you felt like you had to direct, what did you mean by that?
AS: I do a lot of theater, obviously. More and more I’ve been gravitating towards directing and playwriting, and less and less acting, although I still love acting. I directed my first year for [Boris’ Kitchen] and then I was like, yep! I’m gonna’ direct this year. The question was what kind of theater do I want to be doing, because I was going to do something. So I just decided it would be directing.
JA: Do you have an ideal cast in mind, and if so, what would they be like?
AS: It’s a 16-person cast. Which is a lot. I’m actually thinking very specifically about this cast, because I want to do a racially conscious casting. It’s really important to me that this be a discussion, and that every person who wants to can be represented in this play. One of the issues we get with theater is that certain people get represented more than others, or have more opportunities than others. Usually white men are the people who get the biggest opportunities. So this play definitely gives opportunities to both men and women, and also anyone who is not of [those] genders, you know, again, [are] welcome to audition. Also, although it’s not explicit in the text that it’s about race, there’s so much language in there—a lot of themes of otherness—and it’s a really good play to racialize and bring that element in. I want my female leads to be black, I want certain roles to be people of color.
The play is about sexual violence. Sexual violence can be gendered, and it can also be racialized. So I really want to talk about all [of] those things.
JA: Did you expect have any challenges as director?
AS: My number one fear right now is casting. It’s going to’ be really intense. Last time I did a common casting, I cried and I was only casting six people. This is going to be a really intense experience. But I’m excited. Having been here for two years and [seen] all the incredible talent, I’m not worried in that way. I’m just hoping that I get to cast the way I want to.
[Directing] is going to be a challenge, because I definitely have fear about the topics I’m dealing with. I mean, sexual violence is a really hard thing to talk about. And race is a hard thing to talk about. So I want to make sure that [through] the conversations I’m having, I create a safe environment.
JA: Do you have a favorite scene of the play?
AS: No.The writing itself is very stylized—it’s mythic. There are moments of the plays that are more intense than others. Each moment kind of is its own thing too. You have moments where you have a scene between the two sisters, and they’re just talking, and it’s more naturalistic. Then you have moments where the chorus is directly addressing the audience, or is commenting on the play they’re seeing. You have a play within a play. You have singing, you have dancing, you have acrobatics, and this weird, life-size-doll dance puppet show thing. You have stage violence.
Each moment kind of brings its own aspect to the play. So I don’t necessarily have a favorite. For me, the way it all comes together is what’s so exciting about it.
JA: What do you hope the audience will take away from the show?
AS: I have different hopes for the audience.First the hope is that people will come to the show, and I think people will. Then the hope is that people get something from it, but I don’t necessarily want to limit what that is. In the ideal world, this play could spur us all to talk about things like violence, and racialized and gendered violence. Maybe our campus would start really dealing with those issues, and continue to deal with those issues. I just think I want people to—maybe people who haven’t been as comfortable talking about those things—to maybe gain some comfort talking about them. Or maybe feel uncomfortable but talk about it anyway. Or just enjoy a show. That’s enough too. Each person is going to’ take away their own thing. And I don’t need a united audience. If one person walks away and says, ‘oh that was entertaining!’ and another person walks away and says ‘that moved me at some core space in myself, and now I have to go explore some of these things,’ that’s also great.
Whatever people are going to get, is what they’re going to get. I know personally, I’ve seen shows that years later will still kind of be in my mind and influence me. Not necessarily in explicit ways. I would love for this to be a night of theater that people remember.