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Elephant and Piggie's We Are In A Play

by Mo Willems and Deborah Wicks La Puma
June 24 - July 2, 2022

This summer, I had the absolute honor of making my professional directorial debut at Festival 56 in Princeton, IL with the Theatre For Young Audiences show Elephant and Piggie's We Are In A Play. Having been an actor at Festival 56 last year, I was thrilled when Tommy Iafrate, one of the producing artistic directors and a wonderful mentor of mine, offered me the opportunity to direct this joyous piece at a theater that takes such good care of early career artists. Tommy was my collaborator on this project, serving as music director and a second set of eyes on all aspects. 


In true summerstock fashion, we had 12 days between the arrival of the actors and opening night. Thanks to the eagerness and preparedness of the cast, we were able to block the entire show in just two days and had plenty of time to work and polish the show before moving into tech. For a cast that had never done TYA work before, they picked up on the style and energy necessary quickly and with finesse that just made me giddy. We were able to play with the vaudevillian-vingette style while remaining grounded in the earnestness of the story and the relationships between these youthful characters. 

The major focus of this piece was how young people experience big emotions and conflict for the first time.

I was so lucky to be working with the wonderful designers that created a dynamic, whimsical world for the actors to play in. Andy Trusley's playful, asymmetrical set design with Dale Pickard's colorful and animated lighting design created a wonder-filled atmosphere that heightened all of the hilarious, heartfelt moments we found in the rehearsal room. Bradley Robert Jensen's costume design offered so much freedom of movement that children's play clothing allows, as well as paying homage to the girl groups of the 1950's/60's that the music of the Squirrelles is heavily based upon. 

Photos courtesy of Jim Gassen and Angela Dunlap

Music Director, Co-Artistic Director: Tommy Iafrate 

Stage Manager and Props Master: Giulia Pagano

Production Stage Manager: Meghan Boucher

Co-Artistic Director: Frank Monier

Scenic Designer: Andy Trusley

Lighting Designer and Master Electrician: Dale Pickard

Costume Designer: Bradley RobertJensen

Sound Designer: Kallie Scott

Costume Shop Manager: Kassie Kelso

Sticher: Bo

Technical Director: Paul Cartwright 

Paint Charge: Karis "Rissy" Bland

Carpenters: Josie Parish, Logan Lowe, Tyler Castanuela

Run Crew: Andrea Imsland

The Team
shuffle 2.0

a devised piece

In October 2022, I had the pleasure of leading the first in-person creation of the devising concept "shuffle," an earlier project that was done remotely in order to keep actors safe at the height of the pandemic. This time, we began with a general outline: a person comes home to an untouched childhood bedroom and discovers an old iPod that takes them on a journey through memory and lost relationships. We began with several days of Viewpoints exploration, a new practice for 2 of the 4 members of our ensemble. It was a welcome challenge to figure out how to teach Viewpoints in a crash-course way given our short process and ended up being a great exercise. We then moved to crafting the individual vignettes of the piece around songs composed by musician friends Jo Garcia and Nathan Nzanga. It was a wildly collaborative process that had us shifting our focus all the time, learning how to work not as a single unit, but as a 


a devised piece

Devised by and Featuring

Jailyn Genyse

Carmen Retzer

DeAnté Bryant

Hannah Moorhead

Jaalam Dishon

Jorge Cordova

In the final semester, directing students have the opportunity to create a devised piece of theatre with no limits. I'm incredibly excited and am already coming up with questions to pose to the work.

I'm fascinated by one phenomenon in particular: the moment when you hear a song, see an object, smell a specific scent, and without warning you're transported to another time. For me, it's hearing Sweater Weather or Afraid by the Neighborhood, I'm suddenly back on my 9th grade school bus after my first break-up, headphones in, leaning against the cold window. That feeling in my chest stays with me. It reminds me of the person I was. The people I loved. The people I hurt and who hurt me when that was the soundtrack of my life. I want to explore that feeling and how a person moves past it. 

This is a piece based in viewpoints movement exploration, and treated like a short film given the current circumstances with Covid-19. We embraced the isolation and had each actor in their own spaces for filming. The editing was a challenge and I'd loved to take this concept further and film with a professional production team at some point in time. I'm so grateful for this amazing team of actors; they are in every single detail of this piece and it would not be what it is without them. 

edith can shoot things and hit them

by a. rey pamatmat

directing scene exercise

(private work, no performance)

bottle fly

by jacqueline goldfinger

directing scene exercise

(private work, no performance)

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