BJU students will produce and direct “The Dancers,” written by Pulitzer Prize winner Horton Foote, from Feb. 21 to 23 in Performance Hall to fulfill two students’ senior capstones.
The play, by the Oscar-winning screenwriter of “To Kill a Mockingbird,” tells the story of a high school graduate going to his first dance with a girl before he heads off to college. “The Dancers” occurs in Harrison, Texas, in the 1930s.
Gabrielle Prairie, a theatre major, is directing the play for her senior capstone. She first read the play after Ron Pyle, head of the theatre department, pointed her to it. After checking it out, she fell in love with it.
“It’s just a really sweet story and has a lot of universal truth in it,” Prairie said.
Jordan Ford, another senior theatre major, partially fulfilled her capstone requirements with last semester’s You Can’t Take It With You. Ford is continuing to complete her capstone by assistant directing “The Dancers.”
The main character of “The Dancers,” played by Josiah Shank, a freshman theatre major, struggles with a lack of confidence.
Prairie said that confidence is doing something despite your fears. “We all have struggled with finding confidence,” Prairie said, “I just think I like how Foote handles it. It’s not super dramatic; it’s real life.”
Susanna Smith, a sophomore nursing major, plays the girl who helps him find his confidence. “It’s not confidence to just go out and change the world necessarily, but confidence to just go outside your comfort zone,” Smith said.
As Prairie directed Smith during rehearsal, Smith realized her character had more confidence than herself. “I just realized I was being super self-conscious about all my movements,” Smith said. “I could just be more relaxed and comfortable.”
Prairie is trying something different with this play than most adaptations of Horton Foote. “We’re trying to use a little bit more abstract and use a little bit more expressionism,” Prairie said.
Smith said that added dance sequences are used in an abstract way. Prairie also said one of the difficulties with adapting Foote is not seeing the characters as stereotypes. “You really have to get to know the characters and understand that they are very relatable,” Prairie said.
Smith said she loved working with the cast and theatre students, since she’s normally around fellow science majors.
Prairie said she likes the collaborative aspect of theater, and she’s always been passionate about theater. “There’s something about live theater, like anything could happen,” Prairie said. “That is just so exciting to me. Something goes wrong; you have to trust the other actors to pick you up and to listen and to make it work.”
According to humanitiestexas.org, Foote originally tried to become an actor before learning he was more skilled as a playwright. Foote wrote “A Trip to Bountiful,” which was performed in Performance Hall in 2017. He won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama for “The Young Man from Atlanta.” Foote also voiced Jefferson Davis in the Ken Burns documentary “The Civil War.”