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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

“We All Learn From Each Other”: An Interview With Kate Kelly

One of a four-part series

UMass Boston’s Division of Theater Arts and Communications is presenting not one, but three short plays at its Fall Drama Workshop. Three plays offer three times the drama, three times the excitement, and three times as many opportunities for students at UMB – both as audience members and as participants in the workshop. Each play requires its own student assistant directors – overseen by Professor Ron Nash, chairman of the division, but largely reliant upon their own resources.

Over the next few weeks, we’ll be looking at the student directors for each of the three plays: “Incident at Vichy,” by Arthur Miller; “The Jewish Wife,” by Bertolt Brecht; and, this week, “Trifles,” by Susan Glaspell, who wrote for the Provincetown Players in the 1910s and 20s.

“Trifles” is a staple of drama anthologies, often read, but rarely seen onstage, so it’s exciting to see the Drama Workshop mount the production. A succinct play, it clocks in at about twenty minutes. “Trifles” nonetheless touches on many different issues.

“Trifles” plays very much like a detective novel, only much shorter and more pointed, as five characters investigate a murder scene. Its brevity is, in fact, very much the point. In the play, the Sheriff discards some evidence – women’s knitting – which later proves vital to understanding the incident, paralleling the play itself: it would be tempting to overlook “Trifles” as a mere … trifle. But, short though it may be, “Trifles” states its viewpoint without ever becoming hostile, didactic, or (that most deadly word!) dull.

Assistant Director Kate Kelly is a familiar face at UMass Boston: after a year attending UMB in 1993, she took several years off, only to return in the Spring of 2000 to continue her degree.

While “Trifles” marks her first effort in directing, she has a wealth of knowledge to draw on: those five years were spent as a professional actor, ultimately attaining her Actors’ Equity card (Equity is the union overseeing actors and theater professionals) and, lately working at StageSource as their director of marketing services.

“I’m bringing [in] a lot of my life experience, so I am seeing things from a different angle,” Kate explains. “But everyone is bringing their own experiences to the table, and we all learn from each other.” As assistant director, Kate is responsible for articulating the play to the actors, helping them understand their characters, and their presentation to the audience.

“Mrs. Hale rocks back and forth between hiding things and being totally honest,” she explains to actor Kate Plato in rehearsal. “What makes you character decide to walk there?” she asks another. And together they decide.

Casting “Trifles” was a delicate matter. The theater workshop had such a large turnout of women that two critical male roles, the Sheriff and the Attorney, would be filled by females. It is theater tradition, however, for female roles to be played by men , de rigeur, in fact, in both Greek theater and in Shakespeare’s time. But what effect would it have on this work of feminist literature?

“I was concerned about the cross-casting,” Kate explains. “But it became apparent to me that we were just dealing with the challenge of casting the shows with a female-heavy class. The two women playing the male roles – Jen Kenneally as the Sheriff, Amanda Kelly as the Attorney – are very strong actors. Our challenge is to make the audience forget that they’re female quickly and to concentrate on the story. It is a good challenge.”

“Trifles”, “The Incident at Vichy”, and “The Jewish Wife” go into performance beginning November 29. Tickets will be on sale at the McCormack Theater.

Next week, we stop in with Cailin O’Connor, student director of “The Incident at Vichy,” a difficult, demanding work which examines the Holocaust in personal detail.

Trifles Cast and Crew

Assistant Director

Kate Kelly

Assistant Stage Manager Eileen Rooney

County Attorney Amanda Kelly

Sheriff

Jennifer Kenneally

Mr. Hale

Eric Whitner

Mrs. Hale

Kate Plato

Mrs. Peters

Kristen Wytas