Quinnipiac University College of Arts and Sciences

Nine, the Musical

In Event, Theater on December 2, 2014 at 6:34 pm


By Drew Scott, Adjunct Professor of Theater, and Emily Scott

In the fall of 2010, two freshman auditioned for Theater for Community’s production of The Trojan Women. For the first time, they tread the boards of Buckman Theater among a company of upper- and underclassmen, bringing new life to characters created more than two thousand years ago. These young women went on to participate in every Theater for Community and student production over their four years here, working both on stage and behind the scenes to help create a variety of exciting shows ranging from drama to comedy to musical productions.

Their names are Ashley DiFranza and Emily Seibert. Today, they are working theater professionals who were recently hired by Quinnipiac to bring their creative talents to bear on the Theater for Community’s production of Nine, the Musical. Their official titles were Assistant Director for Musical Staging, and Assistant Director for Choreography and Lighting Designer, respectively, but the amount of effort they put into the show belies the “assistant” in their titles. James Noble, director of the production and a member of the Department of Visual and Performing Arts who has extensive professional directing credits, lauded their efforts saying, “There weren’t hard lines dividing the work. It was a true team effort.”

While Emily and Ashley are highly motivated, talented, and skilled, there was more to their hiring than that. They knew the space already, and they knew how the theater program worked. With the limited time and resources available to the production, having professionals who could hit the ground running would be an invaluable asset. And, more importantly, the hiring of Quinnipiac-trained professionals would foster a sense of community. These were students who had gone on to graduate and apply their training to the real world; hiring them would be a show of faith in the Theater for Community’s training, and would give the young cast of Nine professional role models. The decision to hire them was a “no-brainer,” said Professor Kevin Daly, another member of the Department of Visual and Performing Arts and himself an alumnus.

“At the end of the day, it is all about the students and making certain this is a learning experience for them,” said Ashley when asked about her reasons for coming back to work on Nine. She and Emily both enthusiastically took on the task of mentoring the young performers. In the course of her work as assistant director, Ashley helped those actors with solo songs to develop the confidence and skill needed to transport the audience into the world of the play and take them on an emotional journey. And Emily did not want to just tell the actors how to move during dance numbers, but to “get everyone involved.” She set herself the specific goal of teaching the students movement skills that would help them not only with Nine, but in future productions and in the real world. As Emily put it, “I want them to develop confidence in what they can do, understand their strengths, and make decisions on their own.”

Aside from her work with the students, Emily also took it upon herself to catalogue and organize Theater for Community’s lighting equipment, and create a “light kit,” an inventory of basic equipment needed for lighting a show. This will be a great resource for future lighting designers hired by the program.

To mentor young performers, to take on all the responsibilities of professional designers and assistant directors, and to go above and beyond what is asked or required of them demonstrates the admirable work ethic and deep sense of responsibility both of these young women possess, qualities which, they say, were fostered in them while studying at Quinnipiac. They credit their ability to take on the life of theater professionals to the theater program’s emphasis on hands-on, self-directed learning. “I got a lot of chances to direct at Quinnipiac, a lot of chances,” Ashley said. “It gave me a firm base and gave me the confidence to be able to do this.” Emily echoed this sentiment, saying, “The program is small, and because the program is small, any opportunity is possible. I came into the program as an actor and acted in every production my freshman year. But, then I thought about other production related jobs I could do and I thought ‘I’m good at organization. I wonder if I can be a stage manager?’ So, I stage managed. While stage managing I saw what the lighting designer was doing and I thought it would be interesting to try that. So, I assisted lighting designers; then got the chance to light student directed shows, and then a main stage show.”

Though they started off as humble freshman, as every Theater for Community student does, Ashley and Emily are now theater professionals, and they are carrying on a fine tradition of having professionals work on the Theater for Community shows. “My work at Quinnipiac with professionals gave me experience and contacts. Those contacts have led to more contacts, and professional work outside, including New York City,” said Emily, citing the benefits of working with theater professionals. Ashley also said, “I think I have a solid understanding from my time at Quinnipiac of how to be a director, and how to properly translate your vision from your head onto the stage.”

The Quinnipiac University Theater for Community is a family. Every person who has gone through the program is tied to everyone who came before them and everyone who will come after, and nothing symbolizes this quite as neatly as the tie line. A piece of a tie line, a thin rope used to tie up cables and drapes, is given to every member of the program on their first show. Ashley and Emily are forever a part of the Quinnipiac theater community, and when they spoke of returning to work on Nine, they spoke of returning home. “I really want to help Quinnipiac in any way I can,” said Ashley, “because it gave me so much when I was a student here… And coming back as a guest artist, it’s a great feeling to be needed and useful, to give people a sense of society and community.” As Kevin Daly said, “[Ashley and Emily] embody the traditions of the [Theater for Community] program, and create a sense of continuity between the past and the present, and represent a bridge to the future.”


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