This weekend is an exciting time for the T&D department! The BA/BS program has enlisted the help of Mina Samuels to bring her new play to be staged here at MSU. Her one act Because I Am Your Queen features Theatre and Dance students across various programs to bring this staged reading to life. In addition to the production, Mina will also be holding an embodied devising workshop this weekend for our T&D students. These are wonderful opportunities that are pushing our programs to expand past just the classroom and help our students to expand their skills.
A Royal Journey From Page to Stage
Dr. Kyle A. Thomas initiated the interest in Mina Samuels’s work and bringing her to Missouri State. This has been something Kyle has been interested in pursuing for some time before he found the perfect place to execute this project: “I first read Because I am Your Queen about two or three years ago when I was on the selection committee for the Department of Theatre at the University of Illinois. I immediately fell in love with the play for its humorous and erudite approach to historical portrayals of women… So, when I got here to Missouri State I was quick to contact her about visiting and working with her play because it’s invaluable for our students to be able to learn directly from and get to know a playwright who is on the forefront of theatrical storytelling.” This is indeed a great learning experience for our students, and Kyle has high hopes that the students will be able to take away many great lessons from these opportunities. He explains, “I hope students learn how to find a deep sense of theatrical creation that is rooted in who they are… It’s really easy to get stuck on the formulas that we teach for success in the theatre, but what we hope as teachers is that a student will see that a formula is just a vehicle for exploring one’s self-creativity. Mina’s workshops will explore that and her play captures that. I also hope that students are able to see a model of success in Mina—that she uses her creative talents across many mediums, not just theatre.” Because I Am Your Queen has become more than just a production, but an invaluable experience to share with our Theatre and Dance students.
Hailey Panek is one of two directing Because I Am Your Queen. While this is the first full-length show she’s directed, she says, “It feels really awesome to be directing this play. I feel really honored that I get this unique opportunity to work on a play that the playwright is coming to see.” Because I Am Your Queen addresses many feminist themes, and as a woman, Hailey feels very connected to the piece. She divulges, “When I first for to read the script, I was baffled by just how much it spoke to me as a woman. Getting to direct this wonderful cast of women has been so amazing, and I’m glad that I get to represent women through this piece.” The show consists of various literary and historical queens that are able to interact with each other. The concept is one that excites Hailey as a way of seeing our present through our past: “I think this piece really shows how much the role of women has changed throughout history. Women have always been in positions of power, but how they use that power and how they’re influenced by them has changed… I love that I get the opportunity to watch these characters make such a radical transformation every night and find out who they are, away from their male imposed narratives.”
Also directing Because I Am Your Queen is Roland Netzer. Bringing in Mina Samuels herself to see her own creation staged can put stress on a director, but Roland is both excited and scared, saying, “You get the supreme benefit of getting the author’s direct input on the show, but you always fear that they won’t enjoy is as much as you hope.” However, he believes the audience will overall have a great time watching this story unfold: “I think they’ll (the audience) think it’s bizarre, because it is, but they’re going to have so much fun getting to know these women in this fold in space and time.” It’s easy to find the empowerment in Mina’s writing and the directors hope that power can translate to the stage.
Saturday, February 1st will be Mina’s embodied devising workshop from 9:30AM-12:30PM in Credo Studio, open to all Theatre and Dance students. Participants are asked to bring an odd prop, costume element, or unique light source with them. Saturday night will the performance of Because I Am Your Queen with a Q&A with Mina to follow. Take advantage of these opportunities and channel your inner queen.