As the OU Fine Arts Center begins its plays for the academic year, drama students explain that studying drama is much more than memorizing lines, it’s studying people.
Arcadia, a play centered on the theme of chaos versus order, opens its second weekend of performances on Friday. Like an iceberg only showing a fraction of its true size above water, most audiences are only able to see the finished product, not the grueling work that goes into its delivery.
“This play specifically had a lot of research,” Drama senior Calley Luman said. As one of the leads of the play, Luman said she typically rehearses four hours each day for five days a week. As a college student who already must take classes, study for those classes, and sometimes work a part-time job, adding an extra twenty hours of work is no easy task.
“I had to understand mathematical concepts, characteristics from the time period, how they would dress, speak, and proper British dialect the entire play,” Luman said.
Yet, she also said the long hours and having to be constantly giving all of her emotions is draining but rewarding once her peers get to see the finished product.
According to the American Alliance for Theatre and Education, “students who participate in drama often experience improved reading comprehension, maintain better attendance records, and stay generally more engaged in school than their non-arts counterparts.”
AATE noted that during a study on college entrance exams from the years 2001, 2002, 2004, and 2005, drama students scored higher than non-drama students in both the verbal and math components of the SAT—65.5 points higher on average for verbal and 35.5 average points higher on math.
As far as performing, Luman said the students must also learn the history and context of the play, which requires the aid of a dramaturg who specializes as a literary, historical and cultural consultant for the actors.
Theatre history professor and Arcadia’s dramaturg Professor Alicia Koger said research is a vital part of every production. When asked about the stereotype that theatre students spend all their days having fun, she made it clear that that notion is far from the truth.
“This is a misconception about the work involved in actor training and the professional world,” Koger said. “Performance majors attend classes from 9:30 A.M. to 4:30 P.M. everyday, attend rehearsals five to six nights a week, and must prepare homework for drama and non-major classes in the free time they have left.”
Koger also said the students must stay in good physical condition, eat right, and avoid smoking.
Moreover, dialect coach Henry McDaniel III said that more goes into an accent that mimicry. “It’s going to have a different vernacular, different rhythm than American accents,” McDaniel said when explaining the difficulties of the true British accent. Through all the hard work and time working with students, he enjoys what he does.
“Getting them to come to terms with their own voices first, then getting them to see what someone else’s voice sounds like is something I really really enjoy,” McDaniel said.
Another lead in Arcadia, drama student Tommy Stuart said that students from other majors would understand if they walked in his shoes.
“Sometimes I go an entire day without eating,” Stuart said. “It’s not just a dram degree.” Stuart said that it is also like psychology, a study of behavior and people.
In order for audiences to believe the performance, students must know every word, every movement, every thought their character would think during each scene of the play.
Arcadia will open next this Friday at 8 P.M. Tickets are 15 dollars at the door. For more information, visit OU Fine Art’s website: www.ou.edu/finearts.