- The Enterprise
- The Recorder
When Julia Katz was planning an original play to enter in last month’s 2012 Capital Fringe Festival, she went with what she knew and took the words right out of the mouths of her peers at Virginia Tech.
“The Freshmen 15/Life in Transition” was comprised of ideas culled from students about their college experiences.
“I was really interested in the honesty that came from documentary performance,” Katz wrote in an email. “Theater is often construed as about representation, whereas documentary theater does its best to truly portray the essence of someone’s real story, in their own words.
“So I looked around to what was accessible to me, and I realized that the experience that I’m in college is one that is incredibly complex today. ... Student debt recently reached a trillion dollars, young adults are told that there’s really only one path to success and that’s higher education. Previous generations didn’t have that same level of rhetoric.”
The cast and crew dove in.
“We had two weeks of rehearsal and developed the final script,” said Deborah Cline, a graduate of Henry E. Lackey High School, who stage-managed the play. “Each scene is in response to a question.”
Questions about why the characters chose college, about drug use and hooking up, financial aid and postgraduate plans.
The play was staged during the festival at The Bedroom at Fort Fringe in Northwest Washington, D.C.
Capital Fringe Festival, the second largest event of its type in the country, is an unjuried festival in the District held each July.
A nonprofit organization, Capital Fringe kicked off in 2005 to “connect exploratory artists with adventurous audiences by creating outlets and spaces for creative, cutting-edge, and contemporary performance in the District,” according to its website. The organization also offers performing arts programs.
A rising sophomore at Virginia Tech, Cline first was introduced to theater when she was an eighth-grader. It was nothing spectacular, just a school play. Then in high school, a friend mentioned going to an information meeting about theater. Cline tagged along and ended up staying with the program all the way until graduation.
When she got to Virginia Tech, where she started as a biochemistry major before switching to studying sociology and public and urban affairs, Cline looked into the drama department and began volunteering her time and expertise to productions.
She took backstage roles because she didn’t want to commit to being onstage, meanwhile she enjoys the job of stage manager.
“You build trust with the cast and crew,” Cline said. “You make sure they are safe and comfortable and have what they need.”
Katz said that Cline brings much to the role.
“Deborah and I often joke that she is actually my life manager, and that’s how important stage management is to a production,” Katz said. “The stage manager is truly the grease that keeps the machine moving, and Deborah is fantastic at balancing different priorities and personalities. She can get along with almost everyone and understands innately what I need during rehearsals and performances. She’s been described by other directors as being really proactive in preventing problems even before they occur. There’s no way that things could run smoothly without her the actors and I would forget what to do all the time.”
Beyond theater, she is interested in homelessness issues, going as far as switching majors from a science-heavy line of study to one that incorporates her passion for social change.
“I love science and I still do,” she said, but after spending her high school years focused on the subject she found herself partially burned out and not very happy.
She had volunteered with her church, Christ Church Durham Parish, in the past and is involved with Christ Episcopal Church Blacksburg near her school.
Cline has found herself drawn to socially conscious theater and experimental productions.
Theater puts a mirror up to society, Cline said.
“You can use it to bring about change,” she explained. “To bring to light community issues, social issues. Performing allows you to dive to the emotional state.”
Cline is slated to work with Katz again, and her stage manager’s major will come in handy.
“Deborah has a special skill, and that is her studies with sociology and public affairs,” Katz said. “My next project, ‘Blinded,’ is primarily about how globalization has affected human rights, and that’s right up her alley, blending her love of art with her schoolwork. Also, Deborah works great in an ensemble she integrates into a team perfectly, and I love creating collaboratively within an ensemble framework.”
The daughter of Doug and Kim Cline and Carol Selvage, Cline stays busy, juggling schoolwork, club commitments and theater projects. She wouldn’t have it any other way. If she had downtime, it wouldn’t last for long.
“I’ll get my hands into a project,” she said.