What does it take to direct a play?

Hinsdale Central senior Emma LoDuca has long been drawn to the enchanting world of live theater. A couple of years ago she developed a passion for the medium of film and sought out a way to support both interests.

That way was directing. LoDuca will make her directorial debut with Hinsdale Central Drama's family-friendly production of "James and the Giant Peach" Feb. 9 and 10 in the school's auditorium (see Page 16 for details).

The famous Roald Dahl fantasy work tells of the English orphan who lives with his two cruel aunts. Through a series of otherworldly events, he befriends anthropomorphic bugs who live inside a giant peach, and they embark on a journey to New York City.

"It's great for kids to get a fun experience. It's pretty interactive, as well," LoDuca said. "It's fun for all ages."

LoDuca has been part of Hinsdale Central Drama since she became a Red Devil, performing in the freshman show and most recently appearing in last year's production of "Clue."

With a vision of studying film in college, she seized the chance to student-direct as a senior to understand that level of responsibility.

"I just wanted to get some extra experience because I know that's something I might want to do in the future," she said. "I think I really like the ability to tell a story to others and provoke emotions - make people feel something, whether it's happiness or sadness."

Traditionally the troupe has performed one-act plays for its February show, but, to LoDuca's surprise, it was decided to do a full play instead this year.

"That was a little more than I had expected, but I was willing to take it on," she said.

Her familiarity with "James" gave her a head start, and she tried to map out her plan before the first rehearsal so the actors could hit the stage running.

"Just reading through the script and having a general idea of what I want the set and the blocking to be," LoDuca said of her preparation.

Making sure performers are diligent in learning their lines and movements is the single biggest task.

"It's crucial that people know what they're doing and write down their blocking and know where they need to be at what time and have all that memorized," she said.

Because of the rather tight window to pull the show together, LoDuca allowed cast members to lean on line prompts through the first part of this week. Then it's sink or swim.

"Some characters have quite a few monologues," she noted.

LoDuca has navigated budgetary constraints, like determining which props need to be physically present and which can be mimed.

The cast camaraderie that forms is one of her most cherished aspects, through post-show gatherings at Portillo's or just chatting backstage during rehearsal breaks. And she knows that even directors can benefit from direction.

"I feel like I'm a lot more open to taking suggestions and criticism," LoDuca said. "I just want to put my best work out there."

- by Ken Knutson

Author Bio

Ken Knutson is associate editor of The Hinsdalean