Student director uses play to deliver message — and learns nuts and bolts of theater production

April 14, 2017 | Jennifer McManamay

Sweet Briar theater major Amber Boyer will present her senior directorial project, “’night, Mother,” at 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday, April 21-22, in Babcock Fine Arts Center’s studio theater. Admission is free and open to the public.

Boyer, of Kissimmee, Fla., is a B.F.A. candidate majoring in theater with a minor in English/creative writing. She was drawn to Marsha Norman’s Pulitzer Prize-winning play by its strong characters and the message it conveys.

Amber Boyer headshot

Amber Boyer

Jessie Cates, played by Mary Grace Williams ’20, is divorced, out of work and living with her mother. She is deeply depressed. She has decided to end her life and matter-of-factly tells her mother so. Amelia Burnett ’20 plays Thelma “Mama” Cates, a woman who’d rather see things as she wants them to be, not as they are. Initially, she does not believe her daughter and in the end, stands by as the story reaches its tragic conclusion.

“I thought the message was important for young adults on a college campus to hear,” Boyer says. “I’m dedicating the show in honor of suicide awareness.

“This play may get an audience member to hold their friends a little closer or be a little bolder when asking a family member how they feel. Whatever takeaway they get from this production, I want it to be a positive message about what they can do for others, unlike these characters who primarily think only about themselves.”

Boyer, who plans a career as a voiceover artist, says the experience of producing a play from start to finish was eye-opening.

“When you see a play, it is impossible to imagine all of the work that goes into the production. Even as an actor, it’s hard to think of anything besides memorizing lines and attending rehearsals. Making sure the set, the lighting, the props, the paint, everything gets done on schedule has been daunting. Luckily, I have a great crew working hard to make this production the best it can be,” she says.

She’s discovered that above all, success hinges on good communication. But, there’s also a measure of comfort from knowing — after four years of working and studying in Sweet Briar’s theater program — that her classmates have her back.

“This department is incredibly encouraging and united,” she says. “I’ve seen actors memorize lines in a day in order to go on stage for someone in the hospital. I’ve seen props being fixed during shows by dedicated and hardworking students. I’ve seen huge sets dismantled in a matter of a couple of hours. This theater department has taught me what it means to be a team player and a problem solver.”

For more information, email boxoffice@sbc.edu or call (434) 381-6120.

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