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Student Director Stages First Play

05/11/2010 

With performances in 11 college plays and one musical under her belt, SUNY Cortland senior Rebecca Rozzoni was ready to move to the next level. This spring, she directed her first play.

The musical theatre major from Dryden, N.Y., led three one-act performances of the classic “You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown” in early May at SUNY Cortland’s Lab Theatre.

On Sunday, May 9, her final, free staging filled the small room with some audience members standing and many others unable to see the play.

“By being a director and an actor I am able to see what it’s like for both sides of the theatre world,” Rozzoni said. “Working behind the scenes is just as hard if not harder than working on stage.

“It’s very interesting seeing the cast create their characters even if it’s different than what I originally was thinking for the character,” she said prior to her play. “The cast is doing such a good job dealing with me and my first efforts at directing. We’ve had to restage, or rework almost every moment in the show but they deal with everything so professionally. For that, I can’t thank them enough.”

Student-directed plays are a 30-year, annual spring tradition for the Performing Arts Department. Another student, Colin Havener, oversaw several performances of the dark comedy, “Dog Sees God,” this spring as well. Both plays related to the “Peanuts” comic strip.

The process for a student to direct his or her own play is very selective.

“The students who are chosen to direct their own plays must be in the program with enough experience to carry out the full responsibility of leading their peers to a successful production,” explained Thomas Hischak, a SUNY Cortland professor of musical theatre and theatre history.

The student must approach the program’s faculty a year in advance and present them with the play they have in mind, Hischak said. The professors decide who is ready and who is not. Only Rozzoni and Havener shared this honor.

Rozzoni was more than ready to sit in the director’s chair, having appeared in nine main stage and two lab theatre productions and the student-directed, one-act musical, called “Romance, Romance,” in Spring 2009.

“My favorite show to date has been ‘Romance Romance,’” she said. “It was a wonderful experience. There were five people in the cast. We had a wonderful cast bond and it was really cool to work with a different director.”

Along with acting, directing prepares Rozzoni for an essential role in her anticipated future career in the theater profession. She said that preparing for her directorial debut was a very long and rigorous process and showed her just how tough it is to put on a successful production. 

“For some scenes I had no vision at all and it was very hard to block (edit) some of the scenes and the songs to fit into my production,” Rozzoni explained.

With confidence and trust in her peers, she knew that everything would fall into place.

“I’m very excited for audiences to come see all the hard work my fellow students have done,” Rozzoni said.

With passion and a sense of accomplishment, that final night she strove to lead her peers to an outstanding show and give the audience all she had.

“I was really apprehensive at first because I have never directed anything before but working on it has been such an enlightening and enjoyable process,” Rozzoni said.

Rozzoni, who graduates this month, joins the rank of the numerous alumni pursuing careers in acting and directing at different levels and programs around the country.

“Many of our alumni are in acting right now and some are directing in places like other SUNY schools, New York City and even out in California,” Hischak said.

“I’m very excited for the show to finally go up and for audiences to come see all the hard work my fellow students have done,” Rozzoni said. “I’m so honored to be able to direct my peers and hope that their experience has been as rewarding as mine.”