Three University of Rhode Island theater department alumni have rejoined each other to collaborate on the first show of the season, “Women and War.”
Kira Hawkridge, URI alumna of 2012, is the director; Renee Surprenant, URI alumna of 2010, is the set designer; and Max Ponticelli, URI alumnus of 2009, is the lighting designer. All three of these alumni attended URI around the same time and worked with each other on shows within the theater department. Now they all coincidentally are back and have been collaborating on “Women and War” since August.
The three have not only been excited about working on this show but also being able to work together again. Hawkridge appreciates getting to see all the work her fellow classmates have done since they’ve graduated.
“[Reuniting] feels like a full circle moment,” Hawkridge said. “It’s felt like a mini-reunion to be able to collaborate with them as professional artists.”
All three of them really love that “Women and War” will be performed ‘in the round.’ This means that there will be seating on all sides of the stage, allowing audience members to see each other from across the studio. Audience members now have the ability to see other people’s reactions while the show is live, something they wouldn’t have the opportunity to do in a traditional theater performance.
“That’s kind of the point of theater, to get people in the same room talking and feeling something together,” Ponticelli said. “You can’t avoid that in the round. You’re looking at each other, experiencing the same thing.”
As the director, the most important thing to Hawkridge was creating an ensemble. She wanted the ensemble to be heavily involved in the show. In the weeks leading up to opening night, Surprenant particularly was excited to see the actors use the set she’s spent endless hours creating.
“I think the set feels incomplete until the actors are on stage,” Surprenant said. “It’s really seeing it all come together and seeing how the ensemble is gonna use this whole space because I hope it feels like it’s just waiting, ready for them all to come use it.”
Although they have different jobs, each of their contributions works with the others that in the end will mold together to create an authentic set of performances. Part of Surprenant and Ponticelli’s jobs is to make Hawkridge’s vision come to life. In order to achieve her vision, they all have to work separately but also with each other to put together their own pieces of the show.
“[My job is] to make sure people can be seen and seen in such a way that tells a story that goes along with Kira’s vision,” Ponticelli said. “Renee is responsible for the physical place they’re in. She’s responsible for the physical environment they’re interacting with. The physical environment can be affected by the lights and the lights can be affected by that physical environment. There’s a lot of synching up you have to do [with each other].”
While this is Ponticelli’s first time back to the department post-graduation. Hawkridge was welcomed back last fall when she directed “Eurydice,” another Greek play. Surprenant was also welcomed back to design Shakespeare’s “Measure for Measure,” early last spring.
These alumni along with the cast and crew hope many people come out to support “Women and War.” The show opens tonight and is in the J Studio of the Fine Arts Center at 7:30 p.m. Additional performances will be held on Oct. 12 to 13 and Oct. 18 to 20. Tickets can be purchased at the door and on URI’s theater department’s website.