MFA Actors of 2017 Present 1001 and The Late Wedding

October 31, 2016

Columbia’s graduating class of MFA actors will appear in a pair of thesis productions at Teatro LATEA at The Clementé for two consecutive weekends, November 9-12 and 16-19.  
Jason Grote’s 1001, which flows across time and space from the stories of Scheherazade in A Thousand and One Arabian Nights to New York in the near-future, will be directed by Carl Cofield (‘14). “1001 is explicitly about cultural appropriation. Who gets to tell a person’s story and how do these stories become mythology?” writes Coefield in his director’s note. “The play illuminates that culture is not fixed or rigid, but is fluid and constantly changing.”
Mei Ann Teo (‘14) directs Christopher Chen’s The Late Wedding, a meta-theatrical mediation on love inspired by Italo Calvino’s Invisible Cities. By replacing the cities of Calvino’s original text with different marriages, this genre-bending play paints a complex picture of the search for true connection.
“Working with a director, especially one as giving, supportive and collaborative as Mei Ann Teo, has been a wonderful experience,” said Adrienne Paquin (‘17), who will perform in The Late Wedding. “Christopher Chen's fantastical but very human text has allowed great freedom to let our ensemble create a show that is very much our own.”
During their time in the three-year program, acting students work with a wide variety of plays, from Moliere to Sarah Kane, Chekhov to Ionesco. They develop and refine techniques from different acting traditions, including Stanislavski, Brecht, Brook, and Commedia dell’Arte. These classwork investigations culminate in presentations that have been directed and designed by the acting ensemble. While many actors chose to collaborate with Columbia directors on full-length productions, the thesis production is the first time the program asks students to participate in a fully realized production supported by a professional design team.

“Working on 1001 has been a wonderful experience and opportunity to exercise the craft muscles we were building in the crucible of our first two years. I feel so grateful to the amazing 1001 team that I am learning from daily and to all the teachers that prepared us for this part of the process and what comes next,” said Cassandra Nwokah (‘17). “What my time in the program has given me above all is the recognition in my own understanding that I am an artist. And the only necessary validation of that is a sincere and persistent process of curiosity, investigation and creation.”

Both of this year’s thesis plays are ensemble pieces, which provides all of the actors exciting characters to explore, rather than breaking them into “lead” and “supporting” roles. At the same time, these complex pieces provide a great opportunity for the ensemble to work together to create the world of the play.

“Mei Ann works in a very collaborative methods and is looking to us to help her find what the play is, which is especially gratifying to me as a Columbia actor who has been encouraged to understand myself as someone more than just a person who walks in and says some words,” said Max Sterling (‘17), who will appear in The Late Wedding. “To me, acting is to know where you are in the entire piece and how you can support other elements in it. To look around and see everything that’s happening and knowing how you can contribute and, if you can, collaborate in all those dimensions.”
Tickets for both productions are $15 for general admission, $5 for seniors, and free with any Columbia ID and are available here. Enter the code “student” to reserve free Columbia tickets.