Studio spotlight: Shira Holtz ’24

"Nowhere Left to Go"

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Like many others experiencing a liberal arts education distinct to Muhlenberg, Shira Holtz ‘24 has reawakened old passions and found new ones during her four years here. She’s always been heavily involved in the arts, performing at the Play Group Theatre in White Plains, N.Y. before coming to college. Since attending Muhlenberg, she has played Martin in “A List,” Vera in “You Are Cordially Invited…” and Heller in “(&Medea).” Holtz has also participated in the Red Door Play Festival and “Move, Diverge, Advance,” amongst other things. While her previous concentration was exclusively musical theater, Holtz has rekindled her interest in dance beyond theater and developed new interests like directing, Shakespeare, solo performance and plays. 

Holtz is directing a Muhlenberg Theatre Association Studio show titled “Nowhere Left to Go,” written by Katie Harris ‘24. This one-act play follows six mostly college-aged teenagers trapped in a cave they have never been to. As they try to break out, they may find it is not just the physical barrier they must escape, but themselves as well. The play explores human connection as strangers interact in dire straits. 

“Nowhere Left to Go” is not Holtz’s first experience with directing, but it is decidedly different from the directing she’s done in the past. Last fall, Holtz, Madeline Burk ’23 and others created the Patchwork Theatre Festival, where Holtz associate directed “The Little Prince.” Holtz stated that “Working on that production made me realize that I really wanted to explore directing further.” 

Working on “The Little Prince” is also how she made the connections to direct “Nowhere Left to Go.” Holtz described the process, mentioning that Harris “costume designed ‘The Little Prince’ last semester, which meant she was able to be in our rehearsal room frequently and got to see me work as a director. She really liked my process and we had discussions about my overall interests as a director, and she thought the show might be a good fit. I got to read it over and she suggested I propose it for Studios.” 

Holtz noted that “Rehearsals as a director feel like they require a totally different part of my brain than rehearsals as an actor.” In developing her process, Holtz was heavily inspired by her Acting Process professor, Jamie McKittrick. Holtz said, “I was so lucky to get to work with her as my director when I played Heller in “(&Medea),” which was one of my favorite theatrical experiences ever. I’ve incorporated a lot of vocabulary that I got from her into my directing, and am really inspired by the way that she holds space for actors’ creativity while still providing structure to the process. The way that she holds space and creates a safe and warm atmosphere is also something I strive to emulate in the spaces that I hold power in. Also, taking her 6 Viewpoints acting class has affected my interest in directing majorly. I’m particularly interested in the senses and in an audience’s perception of time and space. Time and space were the first two of the six viewpoints when we studied them, and I view theatrical work so differently because of that course.”

“The way that she holds space and creates a safe and warm atmosphere is also something I strive to emulate in the spaces that I hold power in.”

Shira Holtz ’24

Studio shows give students the opportunities to approach all facets of theater, however, they differ greatly from a traditional performance format. Holtz noted that “There is a ton of work that goes into the Studios season, so much of which is done by the incredible Studios team. As far as the work that I put in as the director of an individual show within this festival, there are two main things: 1) do all of the work that goes into directing a show normally, and 2) collaborate and communicate with the Studios team and the other directors to ensure that we can successfully put on four shows in one weekend. There are so many things to factor in in order to do four completely different shows in one festival, like how can we make set pieces work in multiple shows, and how can we make set-up and takedown of our set as short as possible? It is such a team effort and collaboration and compromise is absolutely crucial.” 

Additionally, the seating for the Studio shows has been unique. Holtz shared, “Our seating for this production, which is alley style [or runway style], is not a seating arrangement I’ve ever worked with before. Luckily, I was informed of the possibility of this seating early on in the semester, but it’s interesting to direct scenes knowing that no matter what, someone in the audience will always have someone’s back to them.”  She further emphasizes that this “isn’t a bad thing, but it’s certainly different from the ways my brain has been wired to view things through traditional proscenium theatre performances.”

Despite the challenges, Holtz is thrilled to be a part of the Studio shows. “I’m really excited to get to put on the world premiere of this play. I think Katie’s writing is truly brilliant and I have such a wonderful cast bringing the story to life. It means a lot to get to be part of the team showing a new story to the world for the very first time!” She continued, “I always find that one of the most valuable things I get out of any performance experience is the connections I make with the people I work with. We’ve just begun rehearsals, but I can already tell that I’m working with an incredible group of people. I’m proud of bringing them together through this piece, and I’m proud to be telling this story.” 

 “I’m really excited to get to put on the world premiere of this play.”

Shira Holtz ’24

In addition to directing “Nowhere Left to Go,” Holtz will also be performing in Elizabeth Bergman’s piece in “In Motion” this spring. She also recently debuted an original work with Burk at the Scranton Fringe Festival titled “Daughters, Wives, Mothers.”

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