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‘Pluto’ Takes the Stage, Eastern Theatre Represents at KCACTF

Published on February 14, 2019

‘Pluto’ Takes the Stage, Eastern Theatre Represents at KCACTF

Pluto set
Prior to the KCACTF performance, “Pluto” showed at Eastern in the fall 2018 semester.

Eastern’s rendition of “Pluto” took center stage at the Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival (KCACTF) earlier this month. “Pluto” was one of only three productions featured at the Region 1 festival, which includes colleges and universities from all over New England and New York, including New York City. The festival occurred from Jan. 29-Feb. 2 at Cape Cod Community College and included an awards portion and theatre workshops.

Written by playwright Steve Yockey and directed by Eastern Theatre Professor Chase Rozelle, “Pluto” follows a mother who is desperately attempting to connect with her withdrawn son in the aftermath of a local school tragedy. Set entirely in the kitchen during breakfast, the play uses humor, fantasy and raw emotion to tackle a troubling present-day issue.

Pluto control booth
In the control booth prior to the KCACTF performance of “Pluto”: alumna Cat Foley ’17, guest-artist lighting designer; Rebecca Figueroa ’20, KCACTF tech intern; SJ Reynolds ’20, stage manager; and MK Cannon ’20, sound board operator.

“Pluto follows a rather traditional plot structure, in that the action leads to one big scene, one climax, where all the themes and conflicts come together,” said Kaileen Langlois ’19, the play’s dramaturg. “The purpose is to thrust audiences immediately into the action and catch them up on details as the story progresses.”

KCACTF adjudicators first saw “Pluto” when it was performed at Eastern in fall 2018. Impressed by the merits of the production, they invited the cast and crew to remount “Pluto” at the festival – one of only three selections festival wide.

Speaking to the disturbing yet culturally relevant subject matter, Rozelle wrote in his director’s notes: “Art has a responsibility to be relevant. Art should explore what it means to be human and should be a reflection of the issues of our society.”

More than 1,000 college theatre students, faculty and professionals from across the Northeast attended KCACTF, with hundreds packing the audience to see “Pluto.”

“This was the first time the cast performed for an audience of more than 600 seats, and it was electrifying,” said assistant director Matt Bessette ’19. “Combine the size of the audience with the fact that they were mostly college theatre majors and you get a crowd whose energy you won’t see in many other places.”

Pluto cast in van
The “Pluto” cast and crew stand before a van full of set pieces. For the KCACTF performance, they broke down the very set that was used at Eastern and drove it to Cape Cod.

The performance received a standing ovation and Eastern students were praised throughout the duration of the multi-day festival. During the closing ceremony, “Pluto” was awarded the “Golden Hammer” for being the smoothest running show over the course of the week.

In addition to the feature performance of “Pluto,” other Eastern students also represented during the awards and workshop portions of the festival. Merit awards went to Katrina Kirby ’19 for make-up design in spring 2018 production of “Awakenings: Youth and Chitra”; Eumir Abela ’19 for sound design in “Pluto”; and the cast of fall 2018’s “Cabaret” for ensemble work.

MK Cannon ’20 made it to the final round of the Stage Management Fellowship. Jake Buckley ’21 was nominated for the Richard Maltby Musical Theatre Award. And based on his audition at the conference, Christian Fronckowiak ’20 was selected to participated in the Music Theater Intensive this summer at the National Theater Institute.

Nominations for the Irene Ryan Acting Award went to Emily Kelly ’19 for her performance in “Awakenings: Youth and Chitra”; Erin Wallace ’21 and Zoe Czerenda ’19 for “Cabaret”; and Andrew Rich ’20 and Elizabeth Heaney ’19 for “Pluto.”

Speaking to the quality of Eastern’s theatre program, Heaney, who played the role of the mother in “Pluto,” said: “We were up against shows from all over New England, as well as New York City. Eastern theatre is expanding and improving every year. Each professor has an innovative and unique perspective, and the collaboration that goes on is beautiful. Opportunity is plentiful, technology is state of the art, resources are always available.”

Heaney remarked on the festival at large: “Not only is KCACTF an inspiring and motivating experience, it provides so many resources and opportunities for students. I took two workshops. You get the opportunity to sharpen audition material, find new works to look at, and be exposed to so much in such a short amount of time. Because there are professional theater artists as teachers, the workshops get into the nitty gritty and answer any questions you may have about your craft. KCACTF is one of my favorite experiences I’ve had at Eastern.”

Written by Michael Rouleau

Categories: Theatre