The Studio Theatre at St. Ambrose University has explored lots of thematic variety in its projects this year. November’s production of “Almost, Maine” brought us some cozy, East Coast romance. And December’s student-directed, one-act plays covered everything from absurdism to Greek mythology.
So why not add some French existentialism to the mix?
That’s exactly what Kristen Jett decided to do. A senior theatre and forensic psychology double major, she will direct Jean-Paul Sartre’s “No Exit” in the Studio Theatre, Mar. 21-23.
“Existential ideas are very different from the traditional Catholic college ideas,” Jett said. “The idea that you can’t control your destiny or your fate kind of makes some people upset.”
And it’s that sort of controversial content that creates the most directing difficulty for Jett. She knew the complexities of existentialism would require dedicated research on her part, and plenty of time spent discussing these ideas with her cast.
“It’s also a period piece set in 1940 during World War II,” Jett said. “All of these things are things we have to make sure the audience understands.”
Tim Stompanato, a senior theatre and philosophy double major, was able to help Jett by creating informational packets on existentialism and facilitating cast discussions.
Jett admitted she felt slightly anxious casting four freshman students in a show with such dense material. But she has quickly become impressed with their enthusiastic work and attention to detail. She also appreciates their positive attitudes toward their late-night rehearsals, which often don’t begin until at least 10 p.m. due to everyone’s busy schedules.
“I love working with them,” Jett said. “They have been my dream cast.”
In the fall of her sophomore year, Jett took a directing class in the theatre department that allowed her to direct a 10-minute scene and a one-act play. She said she is grateful that the department has given her a crack at directing a full-length production.
“It’s really a learning process,” Jett said. “The more times you [direct], you find better ways to do it.”
Jett said she’s also thrilled to be working with a full production team, including lighting, sound, set and costume designers.
“It’s just so great to have 10 people on board with you completely going for it,” Jett said. “And this is a wonderful opportunity to have my last semester here.”
Jett’s passions in the theater lie with stage managing and directing. Although she has yet to settle on post-graduation plans, she aspires to a career involving these areas of theater.
Tickets for “No Exit” are $6 each and may be purchased at the door or in advance through the Galvin Fine Arts Box Office. Studio Theatre seating is limited to 50 people per show, so buying tickets in advance is recommended. Performances will be Thurs., Mar. 21 and Fri., Mar. 22 at 7:30 p.m., and Sat., Mar. 23 at 3:00 p.m.