By REBECCA ISENHART
NISKAYUNA–At Niskayuna High School, Regina Maley advises the drama club. She organizes dinners, herds students and monitors safety, but one role is conspicuously missing from her resume: director.
“We have student directors here,” said Maley. “Sometimes we have one, but I like two because they can help each other.”
Maley selects the student directors, then steps back and lets them work. This year, directors Sarah Beitch and Becca Stacey, both seniors, took on the daunting task of creating a dramatic production — “Harvey” — together. They selected the cast, including understudies, set rehearsal schedules and made artistic decisions about the show.
Beitch, who plans to study acting in the fall at the New School for Drama in New York City, said the challenging role imparted useful new skills.
“It’s sometimes hard, just because you are the same age, to establish yourself as a leader,” she said. “Everyone is here for the same thing, so after a while, it gets pretty easy to communicate.”
Stacey, who will attend the Crane School of Music at SUNY Potsdam after graduation, agreed that directing sharpened her professional skills.
“It makes you better at managing a lot of things at once,” she said. “You have to try to get as much done as possible in short amounts of time.”
Student leadership doesn’t stop with the directors; they take on virtually every role in the show’s creation.
Stage director Celine Fletcher, a junior, recalled working creatively with her castmates to create the show’s set, which included a door rigged with fishing line so it could open on its own.
“We did have a team, but we only had one drill because we don’t have a lot of money,” Fletcher said, “so I had people holding things up for me, grabbing me things, but I was the one driving all the screws.”
Fletcher said her main concern while building the set was making sure everyone would be safe throughout the run of the show.
Even wardrobe was entirely managed by a student, junior Allie Van Hoesen.
“I’ve had a lot of freedom with the costumes,” sad Van Hoesen, who read the play, then shopped at a thrift store for each person’s outfit.
Van Hoesen said one challenge of having a leadership role among her peers was setting boundaries.
“We have our rules, and one of them is, ‘Allie’s not your mom, so hang up your own clothes,’ ” she said. “I can’t even keep my own room clean. I’m not going to clean up your clothes.”
Kyle Fletcher, a freshman and understudy for the play’s main character, said the experience of being directed by his peers was eye-opening.
“I think it teaches us to respect people that are in our same age group,” he said. “You get used to the fact that, ‘Oh, I now have to take some responsibility,’ which is good if you’re going to be working in drama.”
Stage manager Celine Fletcher, Kyle’s sister, succinctly summed up the experience of creating freely with other students.
“Without the crew, the show doesn’t run. Without the actors, there’s nothing to make the set look good and without the directors there’s no organization,” she said.