The Directors Behind Ursuline’s Spring Plays

Abigail Hess ‘20, a student in Ursuline’s Advanced Theater course and a natural comedian, is extremely excited to direct “These Shining Lives,” one of the Theater department’s spring shows.

     “I have been looking forward to directing a show since my freshman year when I found out that the Advanced Theater class puts on a spring show. I think the one part that I am nervous about is doing a good job since I have never directed before. But it is going to be a great opportunity and I hope it is something I will look back on and think, ‘Wow that was amazing,” she said.

     Hess has been acting since kindergarten but became even more involved with theater while at Ursuline. She began her time in the UCPA freshman year as a member of the running crew in “The Ash Girl.”

     Despite her start as a crew member and future position as a director, Hess is a talented actor as well. She believes the best part of being an actor is being able to play different characters.

     “You are able to be a hero or a villain and you can play someone with a completely different personality without having to change your personality,” Hess said.

     Her most fun role was Hansel in “Grimm Brothers Spectaculathon.”

     “I am a huge fan of comedy and being able to play such a funny role was amazing. I had the opportunity to build amazing chemistry with the girl who played Gretel, Marlene Weis [‘21], and I have very fond memories of our rehearsals together,” she said.

     When asked about her favorite role, Hess said, “All of the roles I have been able to play have some sort of special place in my heart, but my favorite role is actually three roles, in the “Grimm Brothers Spectaculathon.”Those roles helped me grow as an actor because it was the first time for me to play men.”

     Hess added, “Which seems like a lot of fun, but it was a little challenging to play three distinct roles. You have to be able to make your voice and mannerism different enough to be able to convince that audience that each character, while played by the same person, is different. So, while it was the most challenging, it was also my favorite.”

     Along with her passion for theater, Hess describes herself as a “huge movie buff,” regularly watching a wide range of movies.

     “I just love making popcorn and being comfy while watching something that will help expand my mind. It is also nice because I am not committing myself to a TV show that can be drawn out—movies tend to be more fast-paced,” she said.

     Hess is also very dedicated to helping the environment, a passion she credits to one of her advisors and biology teacher from the year prior, Katy Bove. The biology class, through documentaries and articles, revealed important realities Hess said she “couldn’t even imagine.” Now, Hess plans to study environmental science in college, aiming to pursue a career to better the earth.

     Ainsley Koch ‘20, another student taking Advanced Theater and president of Ursuline’s International Thespian Society, is directing the other spring show called “Proof.” Self-described as an “old-soul,” Koch believes that if they were a city, they would be San Francisco or Seattle.

     When asked about their experience in Advanced Theater, Koch said, “[It] has to be my favorite class I have ever taken at Ursuline. It’s amazing to have such a small, tight-knit group who are so passionate about theater and each have something special to bring to table.”

     Koch added, “I think what I’ve enjoyed the most in the class is getting to learn how to work with the power tools and how to build set pieces because it’s such a fulfilling feeling to be able to look at a desk or a platform or a door and say ‘I made that.’ This class is really the perfect place for students who love theater and who want to be very involved in the process of bringing a show to life.”

     Koch has been involved in Ursuline theater since their freshman year, saying “It was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made because it’s where I’ve found my family.”

     Koch describes many aspects of theater as electric. During Ursuline’s production of “Legally Blonde,” they remember standing off stage to watch the cast perform the crew’s favorite number “There, Right There.”

     “It was crazy how the energy on stage traveled backstage and filled us with so much joy and excitement. I can still vividly picture the way the light was reflecting off of everyone’s faces and how much it made me want to be on stage,” they said. “On an opening night, when I first step out into the light, I can feel the energy on the stage that bounces between the actors and off of the audience.”

     When asked about their most fun role, Koch said, “I have absolutely loved every role I’ve played but I think I have the most fun with the villains—like Wargrave in “And Then There Were None.” There’s something so interesting about stepping into the shoes of someone so different from yourself and I have a really great time trying to figure why these characters do what they do. They can also be more eccentric than the protagonists sometimes so it’s really fun to push the boundaries of my comfort zone.”

      After their performance as Wargrave in the fall play, Koch continued to delight audiences in this year’s spring musical “9 to 5” as Violet Newstead, which Koch said was their favorite role.

     “She is such a powerful character who demands attention and action and though filling out that role was a challenge it was so much fun. I really identified with both her sarcastic side and her no-nonsense attitude when it comes to getting work done and it was really interesting to try to keep that balance…I wouldn’t trade this role for the world,” Koch said.

     Koch has many passions besides theater, including human rights, animal and climate activism.

     “I’m a generally chill person but when I get excited or passionate about something you can’t really stop me from doing everything I can to make it as good as I can,” Koch said. “Most [people] might not know that I plan to minor in theater in college. I’m really interested in social work and I hope to become a therapist for teenagers and young adults after college.” 

     Both Hess and Koch agree that while theater ultimately will not be their sole focus during college and beyond, the experience and lessons gained through Ursuline theater will always be treasured deeply.

Image courtesy of Bethany Roberts ’20

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