This May, the bustling spring performing arts season at Concord Academy continues the celebration of student-driven productions through Directors’ Workshop. As CA’s highest level theater course, this semester-long opportunity is dedicated annually to two seniors who have demonstrated capacity to explore the all-encompassing creative process as a director. This year, with a show of their own choosing and actors individually casted over open auditions, Eli Morton ’22 and Kyra Lauren ’22 will take the lead. The former chose to put on an embedded-narrative comedy, Mustardseed by Doug Cooney, and the latter is leading the Off-Broadway one-act play The Lifespan of a Fact by Jeremy Kareken, David Murrell, and Gordon Farrall. 

Starring in their first show at age seven, Eli has thoroughly explored the onstage aspect of performing arts through their ample experience as an actor, partaking in a multitude of theater productions within and beyond CA. When the opportunity to direct came to surface near the end of their junior year, they were immediately intrigued. Eli’s successful application, along with their long standing passion for theater, led them to Mustardseed, a coming-of-age dramatic comedy following four girls casted as fairies for a regional production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. “The play takes the audience through a journey with so many funny and heartfelt moments,” Eli remarks. “As an actor, it really reminds me of the part of theater that we missed during the pandemic—the moments together backstage, bonding with the full cast.” 

Now stepping into the director’s shoes, Eli highlights how the collaborative nature of theater shaped their directing style: “I like to see where my actors’ instincts take them, as they typically have a really great idea of how to shape a character and merge it with the show as a whole.” With their thorough analysis of the script and every characters’ psyche, Eli is then able to grasp each actors’ own understanding of the show, guiding the actors with their perspective and unique insights as the director. “Different from being an actor, I have also loved the process of getting to understand the play as a whole, rather than from the sole perspective of one character,” Eli observes. 

When Kyra first took a seat in the audience for the Directors’ Workshop festival during their freshman year, they were amazed by the mere professionalism presented in productions entirely run by students. Kyra recalled, “[I was] totally blown away by how the show was a complete Mainstage!” As a seasoned actor with additional experiences in various other areas of theater, namely tech and playwriting, Kyra, too, did not hesitate to apply for this opportunity. This has now led them to direct their favorite play: The Lifespan of a Fact––an one-act show based on the true story of essayist John D’Agata’s What Happens There. The play follows a preeminent magazine company’s intern, Jim Fingal, and his tumultuous journey in fact-checking a groundbreaking piece by the legendary essayist John D’Agata. Kyra calls attention to the play’s unique examination of the often intangible differences between truths and facts, the boundaries between journalistic integrity and artistic liberties, as well as mental health in urban settings of the twenty-first century. 

As a director, Kyra highlights the importance of rehearsal preparations, namely taking time outside of rehearsals to put down their ideas, visions, and constructive questions onto paper for the specific scenes the cast will be zeroing in on. They say, “I read the scene we’re working on at least three to five times before each rehearsal. Behind every scene, you need to have an image that you’re willing to be flexible on.” With their thoughtful dictatorial feedback and in-depth knowledge of the play itself, Kyra guides their cast and crew through individualized journeys with the difficult, yet powerful ideas the play wrestles with. 

Student directed, performed, managed, and designed, the final showcase of Mustardseed and The Lifespan of a Fact will occur in the Performing Arts Center on May 20 and 21, respectively. The two productions’ cast and crew have certainly been working diligently to ensure the shows’ success; they look forward to welcoming the CA community into the house at the upcoming performances!