Student-Directed Play Takes the Stage

When Puffs, or Seven Increasingly Eventful Years at a Certain School of Magic and Magic opens our Falcon Theatre season Sept. 11, it marks the second year that IWA has mounted student-directed performances. This one is directed jointly by seniors Ursula Buchwald and Lillian Sudkamp.

The show follows the action of what happened in the common room of a certain magic school while a certain boy wizard and his fellow students were basically saving the world. If that sounds like it treads close to the territory of a very popular wizard book and movie series, that's because the show lovingly and funnily examines that world and some of those characters.

"It's a fun play and it has this goofy energy that I feel is a big part of Falcon Theatre," said Ursula."It just fits really well."

Ursula and Lillian shared the task of directing their fellow students, but the pair split their duties according to their own strengths and interests. Ursula handled day-to-day duties such as scheduling rehearsals, while Lillian took on directing exits and entrances. But in terms of how the show should look and flow, they worked in close collaboration.

"We both have a shared vision," said Lillian. "We don't disagree much on how scenes should be. We're on the same page."

Ursula (front, left) and Lillian (front right) direct a scene in Puffs

In addition to giving the young women first-hand experience of leading a team, Puffs also gave them a front-row seat in terms of copyright law. Because the play is a parody of a very large and successful franchise, there were certain words and phrases they were not allowed to use or say. Harry can be said, but not in conjunction with that famous character's last name; Puffs is fine, but not the full name of the house. Despite those restrictions, however, the pair gravitated to the show's message and its characters.

"We don't hear a lot about the Puffs in the original material this is based on," said Lillian. "But we do get a sense of loyalty and kindness [they have] which is definitely what they are supposed to be, and we see that come to life on stage."

Lillian went on to say that she feels kindness is a trait that is sometimes overlooked in the world, and she appreciates that it is a concept that is stressed here at IWA, and one she thinks will resonate with audiences.

"I really like how the show addresses the idea that Puffs are selected for their loyalty and kindness," she said. "And this ties back to IWA. Loyalty and kindness might not be as valued in the world, but it's a value [the Puffs] hold true to."

Being selected to direct a show is an honor Ursula and Lillian are proud to achieve. Fine Arts department chair Katy Mulvaney explained it takes a minimum of two years of involvement in Falcon Theatre before she will consider candidates for student directors. 

"They have to do quite a few jobs [on our shows first]," she said. "And both Ursula and Lillian were assistant directors. Ursula worked on our tech crews and Lillian was a backstage manger."

Both Ursula and Lillian have been involved with Falcon Theatre since coming to IWA and both credit the program with introducing them to new friends and learning more about themselves. 

"Falcon Theatre is just my home," said Ursula. "Freshman year, I was scared of everything and theatre helped me come out of my shell."

"I agree Falcon Theatre has become family to me," echoed Lillian. "I never imaged I'd have so many friends in so many grades."

The official theme for this year's Falcon Theatre is "Carry Me Beyond My Past." Puffs' message demonstrates how the characters grow into themselves. But that theme can also be applied to its directors.

Ms. Mulvaney said she enjoys seeing how Ursula and Lillian have grown during their time as directors. She wants Falcon Theatre to be a place where students can be open and try new things, sometimes failing at them, so they can see how a different approach can work. And she knows that many times, theatre, much like athletics, can be a place for students to find like-minded friends and feel part of something larger. 

"It's also a place where they can be there for each other, and I love how our students embrace that."

Part one of Puffs will be performed Sept. 12 during Flex Time, with Part Two running in the same time slot on Sept. 13. The full play will be performed at 7:00 p.m. on Sept. 13. Admission to this performance is pay what you will.