Central drama veteran takes turn in director's chair

Hinsdale Central junior Teagan Dunn has long been a devotee of the Chicago theater scene, taking in numerous productions over the years with her mom.

During her time with the Central's drama club she's served with the backstage crew, supporting the action on stage.

This season Dunn has come out from behind the curtain as a student director for one of three one-act plays Feb. 9-11 in the school's auditorium (see Page 18 for details). An internship last summer with the BAMtheatre youth troupe involved stepping into an assistant director's role.

"I was mostly in charge of making sure the kids were where they were supposed to be and on time," she said. "That really kind of inspired me to sign up to be a director for this production."

Dunn's first task was selecting a play. She chose the comedy "Appropriate Audience Behavior," consisting of multiple vignettes and allowing for a flexible cast size. And then the real work began.

"I had to hold auditions for the cast and do a tech list, which is prop list and lights and sound and what the set would look like," Dunn said.

The process of picking actors was interesting, she commented.

"I've never been in the position where I'm evaluating the people who are auditioning," Dunn said. "It was cool to see people's more vulnerable side."

Assigning parts posed a logistical challenge, as she had to double-cast because of the sheer number of characters needed.

"I was always double-checking the script and making sure that a note I made makes sense with another note coming up because I had to double cast a lot," Dunn said. "I wasn't able to cast as many people as there are in my play, so I have to double-check the script to make sure that one character isn't being played by people that need to be in the next scene."

She recently attended the Illinois High School Theatre Festival at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign and acquired some helpful rules of thumb for a director.

"One of the things they kept stressing to us was that you need to be more open-minded and know that you aren't everything," she said. "You shouldn't be telling people how to interpret a scene or how to act, because you're not an actor.

"I really want to be a director that's open-minded, that lets people express their parts in a way that they feel is right," she added.

Confidence is critical, Dunn stated, a trait she also relies on as a track and field athlete. One quality she's still strengthening is maintaining communications off stage.

"We use the Remind app to send notices, and that's been kind of a shock that I have to follow up with what I'm doing by telling it to everyone else," Dunn confessed.

But she said the chance to stretch her directing chops has been invaluable.

"I signed up to be a director to improve my leadership and to see more of the aspect of directing and leading a production," she said. "I think I'm definitely learning a lot about it. I'm really glad I got the opportunity."

- story by Ken Knutson, photo by Jim Slonoff

Author Bio

Ken Knutson is associate editor of The Hinsdalean