Hyseni '13 To Helm Intimate 'Jack And Jill' In Bonn Theater
Published: Sunday, February 17, 2013
Updated: Sunday, February 17, 2013 23:02
For most people, the names Jack and Jill conjure up vague recollections of the classic nursery rhyme. For theatre major Hana Hyseni, A&S ’13, they are charged with a decidedly more contemporary and personal relevance. For the past few months, Hyseni has devoted much of her free time and passion to directing Jack and Jill, a modern relationship comedy that is the theater department’s second student-directed workshop production of the year. The fruits of her labor will be on display next weekend in the Bonn Studio Theater in Robsham, as Jack and Jill runs from Feb. 21-23.
Jack and Jill may not be particularly well-known to casual theatergoers, but it has an illustrious history. Pseudonymously written by Jane Martin—the author of a string of acclaimed comedies in the 1990s—the play first premiered at the Actors Theatre of Louisville in 1996. Hyseni first discovered the play last year when her theatre professor, John Houchin, suggested that she read it. Hyseni was instantly captivated, devouring the entire play in a single sitting. What attracted her to the piece was not only its comedic charm, but its ability to encompass so many diverse themes. Hyseni calls Jack and Jill “a comedy that deals with a serious dilemma. We have two adults who are separated in a way by their differences in gender and ambition and insecurity but are always trying to find a common ground and make it work.”
According to Hyseni, the play’s intimate depiction of its central couple—played by Tom Mezger and Ceara O’Sullivan, both A&S ’14—is inseparable from the design elements. “Jack and Jill is very episodic, in a way,” Hyseni explained, “in that each episode or each small scene takes place in a different location and in a different time.”
Creating a suitably adaptable set in the Bonn Theater was one of her greatest directorial challenges. “We wanted to create a space that allows the actors to create their own environments,” Hyseni said, “because the show is about these two characters finding a way to solve their problems and deal with the circumstances around them.”
To make her vision a reality, Hyseni collaborated with an all-student production team composed of fellow seniors in the Theatre Department. Every aspect of the production—from set design to lighting to costumes to sound—was delegated to a student, making Jack and Jill a collaborative effort. At the same time, the student team benefited from the institutional support of the Theatre Department, with each production team member assigned a faculty mentor. “All of us have mentors,” Hyseni said, “and the great thing about that is we get just enough freedom to explore our own approaches and our own ideas, but we check in with our mentors to either get advice from them, or to just have a professional look at our work.”
Despite this collaborative effort, though, the buck ultimately stops at Hyseni, who is responsible for coordinating her team’s efforts into a coherent, unified vision. More than any specific technical difficulty, this was Hyseni’s greatest challenge as director. “One of the major challenges is trying to keep a harmony between all aspects,” Hyseni said, “and making sure that each creative process—whether it be costume, set or sound—is carrying the same message that we’re carrying through in our acting and our performance.”
Hyseni’s experience in the Theatre Department has given her a few opportunities to embrace that challenge. Always possessed by a passion for theatre, she discovered in her junior year a specific interest in directing, thanks to a pair of directing classes—one taught by Houchin, the other by Stuart Hecht. Houchin’s influence was particularly strong, especially as Hyseni had the chance to serve as his assistant director during last year’s production of Doubt. “That was one of the most amazing experiences for me,” Hyseni said, “because I was literally right next to him in every single rehearsal, and even just getting the chance to hear him think out loud, for me was a lesson.” Hyseni followed up this initial directing experience with The Good Body, a project for the Women’s Resource Center Program that she co-directed with Charissa Jones, A&S ’13.