As with many academic programs, the theatre program culminates in a capstone project. Students choose from a range of focuses including acting, directing, lighting and stage managing. At BJU, students have the opportunity to participate as performers or crew members in the Concert, Opera & Drama Series productions as part of their capstone projects, depending on their choice. For those who choose to direct, their capstone projects are produced in Performance Hall.
Under normal circumstances, all productions would be open to the public. Because of COVID-19 precautions, however, BJU regrets that Performance Hall plays and Concert, Opera & Drama Series productions are only open to ticketed students.
How to Choose Just One?
For theatre senior Megan King, choosing the focus for her capstone project was difficult. “Essentially what will happen,” she said, “theatre major juniors will present the plays that they’d like to work with as well as what they’d like to do their senior year, and then over the summer and over that last half of junior year the faculty will read the different plays that we’ve presented, come up with a theme or a season focus and then they’ll assign different capstone jobs based on the input that we gave them.”
Though King’s list of credits on campus is long — “I’ve been in several productions. Great Expectations, Titanic: The Musical, a Living Gallery, in addition to some other things as well. Those are some of the big ones,” she said — she has also been involved in several other areas of theatre such as lighting and stage managing and was open to diving further into those for her capstone project.
“It was kind of a side comment that I said, ‘You know, I mean, maybe I could direct depending on how the directing class goes,’ ” she said. “Maybe I’m just a firstborn, and so I take initiative a lot of times. Or maybe I’ve actually got a potential toward directing kind of activities, so to say.”
King made the choice to direct for her capstone project and enrolled in the stage directing class second semester of the 2019–20 academic year. “So we spend about the first half of the semester in lectures and discussions talking about the details of how to direct, and then the second half of the semester we spend actually getting to direct a scene,” she said.
“Unfortunately last semester because of COVID-19 and because of having to close the school down the week that we were supposed to start rehearsals in class and be getting the feedback from the faculty is the same week that we had to go home.”
King’s capstone project, directing the production of Fog Oct. 29–31, is her first chance to solo direct a production at BJU.
“That has been probably the most exciting and most challenging part of this particular capstone for me,” said King. “I have a strong acting background, and I’ve toyed a little bit with some of the design aspect and even some of the other aspects that a director has to know about, but I’ve never actually been in charge of all of it. So it’s been very interesting not only getting to strengthen my abilities to guide another actor in how to perform better but also in figuring out where I’m lacking. … It’s been a lot of fun.”
Acting Experience a Plus
Having an extensive acting background is a plus for directing, said King, especially in a show like Fog with a small cast handling most of the dialogue. “As a director … it’s very important to make sure that I’m helping my actors in any way that I can to help them better understand their character, better understand the circumstances in the play that can help them understand how to present this character better. Helping them dive into a deeper wish or what’s really motivating the person to take the actions or say the words that they do.”
King also said that her background as a performer “gives me primarily a lens of what are the performers thinking? What are the performers experiencing when they come to rehearsal, when they come to a performance?”
Thinking as an actor has also helped King with the technical aspects of preparing the show. “As a director working on this show, one of the things that’s been very important to me is thinking about the design aspect and things like the set … or whether it’s lighting. …
“Having a strong acting background is helping me to always bring it back to: OK. What are the actors thinking? What characters are they telling the story with, and how does the tech or the set or the costumes or — frankly even in some instances, the marketing and how we’re presenting the show — how does that affect the actor’s ability to bring this character to life?
“So I think it’s really helped me to kind of bring it back to the characters and the actors putting on this story. You can have a show without these special effects, without the lights, without the set, but ultimately theater at its core is a stage, an actor and an audience. So being able to kind of bring it back to the core element of that performer interacting with that audience has definitely, I think, helped me in this first endeavor as a director.”
It All Comes Together
Asked if she could see how all of what she had been taught culminated in this one capstone project, King responded, “Absolutely!”
Prior to directing Fog, King had only focused on one aspect of theatre arts at a time, whether it was acting, lighting or stage management. She said, “Because I was having to think of all the different elements, there was a particular moment … when I could point at some point in this process to where I pulled something from every single one of the theatre classes that I’ve taken, whether it was voice and articulation, stagecraft and how to build things, scene design, lighting design, acting, obviously stage directing. … Every single class that I took in some way or fashion played into how this capstone came to be.
“And I think it was really cool because I don’t know that that would have happened if I had been an acting for a capstone or a design for a capstone. But because I was directing, I was having to think of everything, and it really, for the first time I would say, showed me how everything is interconnected.
“There’s a difference between knowing something and seeing it happen or experiencing it, and that’s when I finally experienced the wholeness or oneness of the theatre art. It’s not just paint on a canvas or your hands and a piece of clay that you’re sculpting. It’s so many elements that come together for an ultimate goal, and seeing all of them come together even just in the initial brainstorming process over the summer … has been not only educational but a rewarding process as well, I would say.”
A Plan for the Future
King’s experience directing has altered her post-graduation goals. Before, she had focused on acting only and planned to audition for Sight and Sound Theatres. While that is still an option, she now is open to exploring teaching options.
“This summer,” said King, “I began to feel that perhaps God was slightly changing my trajectory, in that I wasn’t headed for a full-time professional acting career, but a full-time teaching theatre career, which would heavily still involve acting in some way, and I’ve definitely noticed that even in directing this capstone, I still miss acting and still want to keep doing that so it wouldn’t be excluding that, but it was more the priority of teaching others and kind of almost like a passing of the baton or passing on of knowledge that I would love to do.”
For now, King said, “In a nutshell, ultimately the plan is (to) graduate in May, Lord willing, and this summer I’ll be actually going on the drama team from Bob Jones to the Ark Encounter and I’ll be doing that over there.”
After that, she is pondering options for graduate school and a professional career — and hinted at teaching musical theatre classes for the University should the need arise. Ultimately, she said, “I’m not sure (what the future holds), but we serve a sovereign God and so, I know that He will make it clear when the time comes.”