Welcome back to Capping Off the Week! So sorry that there was not an update last week, but reading period just got the best of me (I’m sure you all understand). Still, to make up for that, there will be an extra edition of Capping off the Week coming in the middle of this week where I interview the directors of everyone’s favorite Williams tradition: Frosh Revue!
This week, I sat down with Ali Bunis, the director of Oleanna, in Woodbridge House shortly after rehearsal. Ali is a senior from Brooklyn, New York. She is majoring in English and is currently writing her thesis on Jane Austen fan-fiction. She is also a member of the Zambezi Marimba Band.
Nico: So Ali, what was it exactly that made you want to direct Oleanna?
Ali: So I actually read it for a playwriting class while I was abroad last spring. I was reading it on the train back from Oxford to Bath. I hate train rides, I always get distracted by the people on the train, but while I was reading this play I didn’t notice any of them. I also think that it brings up some really important issues that should be talked about, and it does so in a very interesting and ambiguous manner. More importantly, it has the potential to piss off a lot of people, and really, what’s the point of doing something if you don’t get a reaction out of someone?
N: Have you ever directed a show of this scope before?
A: I’ve never directed anything before. I was assistant director for Rob Baker White on Fefu and Her Friends, and an assistant director for Paige Peterkin on The Vagina Monologues [both her sophomore year].
The nice thing about this play, though, is that as long as you have actors that are good enough, there are so many choices that you can’t really make the wrong choice. I would say that it directs itself, but it really doesn’t. I sometimes feel more like a moderator than a director.
N: What has it been like working with this team of actors and designers?
A: It’s a very small team, and very intimate. Obviously, the actors are very good, but they make a very striking pair. I could have cast any number of people who could have played each individual part well, but they were the only ones who stood out as a pair.
And the designers are phenomenal. Phoebe, who is designing the set, is actually sort of designing everything except costumes, so I feel a little bad about that. But she’s doing a fantastic job and she’s not complaining (to me at least), even though that’s sort of her modus operandi. She has the best bad attitude, as do I, and I live with her so it’s nice to be able to sit around our kitchen table and snark with her.
N: Speaking of your house, tell me a little about Woodbridge.
A: Woodbridge is a co-op, which means it’s all seniors. My pick group is Gabrielle DiBenedetto (who is also our fight consultant), Sarah Pier, Paige Peterkin, Conor Mook, and Connor Lawhorn. And we kind of lucked out because one of the other pick groups in the house already knew some of the people in mine. I actually picked Phoebe as a designer by talking to her about the show around the kitchen table; she seemed really interested in the show, so I asked her if she wanted to design and she said yes.
N: What are you hoping that people get out of this show?
A: I just hope that people talk about the issues that it brings up: power dynamics, personal power, institutional power, sexual assault. And it’s especially important in the wake of the Hour of Feeling issue last year to address student-teacher power dynamics, especially in theater where you’re really making things together. I may have said earlier that I was excited that this play might piss people off, but what I actually want is for people to leave the room and really think about these issues. But more than that, I just don’t want people to leave and go, “Eh, that sucked.”
So there you have it everyone! Remember to go see Oleanna when it goes up in Griffin 7 on October 28, 30, and 31.