The Red Door Play Festival

Student productions are back in the spotlight

Camille Ladendorf '23 and Leah Trunsky '21 perform a scene from "Knockers" at this semester's Red Door Play Festival.

This weekend marked this semester’s Red Door Play Festival, sponsored by the Muhlenberg Theatre Association (MTA). Each show is a purely student production, as students produce, direct, design and run all aspects of this event. The three-day event featured nine shows, each performed twice. 

I had the opportunity this weekend to see three of the performances: Knockers, At the Bottom of Lake Missoula and Counting to Three.

A light-hearted comedy, Knockers features a man hosting two missionaries going door-to-door promoting their church. Thomas, the homeowner, throws himself into what they are telling him. His enthusiasm causes the ladies to question their own devotion to the church. At the end, he scares them away with the help of his partner, revealing that they use extreme measures to make sure door-to-door people of all kinds leave them in peace.

Sophia Johnson-Grimes ‘21 was the director of this show. What drew her to Knockers was that it is short, hilarious and impactful. She loves getting these kinds of opportunities, as it can be hard for young artists to get this platform. Johnson-Grimes is grateful that the MTA gives students many chances to get involved.

“[They] gave me a platform to share my artistic vision and to gain experience as a young director,” said Johnson-Grimes.

Even though she was the director, Johnson-Grimes likes to be inclusive in her process. She doesn’t her word to be the only one that matters. The production is a team effort, after all.

“I don’t want to be the only one with ideas and a vision,” she said. “I like to encourage everyone involved to share their ideas and experiences with me so we can learn from one another and work on creating the best art imaginable.”

At the Bottom of Lake Missoula, directed by Sofia Barone ‘22, is a darker show that dives into the struggle of life after a loss. It follows Pam, a college student, trying to navigate day-by-day after losing her whole family in a tornado. The tragedy lurked around every corner and she continued to dwell in guilt and grief. When she finally opened up to a classmate who kept pushing her to share, Pam finally starts to see that maybe she didn’t have to be alone.

In contrast to the larger cast and multiple characters of Lake Missoula, Counting to Three, which was directed by Nora Going ‘22, had a cast of just two characters, one of whom spends the majority of the performance in a tree; he is a shy poet found by his classmate in the park. Mary claims that John is in her “spot” and keeps trying to get him to come down and spend time with her. She comes on a bit strong, and tries all kinds of tactics to get him down. He claims to be afraid of heights, but keeps climbing back up the tree. By the time John finally gains enough courage to come down and spend time with her, Mary is gone, leaving him to wonder what could have been.

Claire Fennelly ‘22 was the stage manager for A Long Trip, one of the productions I didn’t see. When asked about what the festival meant for her, she discussed it as a great way for her to keep being involved with the MTA. 

“I was able to create great relationships with the director [Emma Müller ‘22] and those in the cast while furthering my skills in stage management and extending my love for theatre,” Fennelly reflected.

One of the neatest aspects of this festival is that every show featured an entirely new cast of performers. Every show gave opportunities for students to shine.  It may be one festival, but each show was its own production.

Put together, the individual shows created a magical space of creativity hidden in the basement of Seegers. The Red Door Play Festival is always a wonderful way to unwind in the evening and appreciate the talent that runs rampant across this campus.

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