Dec. 7 2017 10:24 AM

Two Intimate one-acts showcase student actors for one night only

Two Intimate one-acts showcase student actors for one night only

In case you missed the solar eclipse, but still want to be moved by beautiful things in the dark, you have a chance tonight at Riverwalk Theatre.

For one night only, the current class of master’s students from Michigan State University’s Department of Theatre will perform scenes from plays by Harold Pinter, along with a talkback with the audience.

Pinter’s “Ashes to Ashes” and “The Lover” are not cosmic marvels, but they are dark, complex explorations of relationships and a chance to see master’s level actors honing their craft.

Director Mark Colson, who is also assistant professor of media acting, said he chose Pinter because he wanted to challenge his students while leaving the interpretation up to them.

“Pinter’s work is like an amazingly difficult puzzle or equation,” Colson said.

“It is the job of the actor to fill in the missing pieces of the character: core values, primal needs, desires, contradictions and inner conflict,” Colson said.

In addition to character work, the actors had to figure out what to do with extra space. “As a rehearsal tool, I would have the students take thirty seconds for each pause and one minute for each silence,” Colson said. “Silences are very exciting because in these moments the scene could go in any number of directions.”

Colson was also inspired by Pinter’s signature dark tone. “I’m drawn to Pinter in the same way I’m drawn to the work of David Lynch,” he said. “They both have a fascination with the deeply troubled, often emotionally twisted core desires within people, all covered by the shiny facade of socially acceptable respectability.”

Kathryn Stahl, 30, is a third-year master’s student from Auburn, Wash. She said interpreting an abstract script like “Ashes to Ashes” is a process of communication and trust with your scene partner.

“The joy about working with a script that’s open more to interpretation is letting the creative side of yourself and your acting partner kind of come to life in it,” Stahl said. “It could have been taken so many ways. It was a lot of exploration and failure to find out a rhythm of honest communication.”

Typically, these intimate, semester-end performances would be performed to MSU faculty only, but Colson said he wanted to branch out. “We don’t usually present final scenes to anyone, but the graduate students’ work has been really strong,” he said. “I wanted to share that with a larger audience.

Colson also wanted the students to be exposed to Riverwalk Theatre for potential acting opportunities and introduce them to the vibrant theatrical scene here in Lansing.

“When we first came to Lansing, Riverwalk gave my family an artistic home and welcomed us into the community,” Colson said. “All of my children have performed on the Riverwalk stages. It was a natural choice that we would go to them first.”

From the student’s perspective, Stahl said she’s excited to be performing outside of the confines of the university.

“In grad school, there’s not a lot of opportunity to get involved in the community because our time is so jam packed,” Stahl said. “This is a wonderful chance to get out and get into the community. I’m so happy it’s happening in the third year” at MSU, “but I wish it had happened in the first.”

Have arts and entertainment news? Please send it to interim arts editor Rich Tupica at or call him at (517) 999-5068.

“An Evening of Harold Pinter”

Scenes from “Ashes to Ashes” and “The Lover”. For Mature

Audience Only. 7 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 6 FREE Riverwalk Theatre 228 Museum

Drive, Lansing (517) 482-5700;