Lauren French made her directorial debut as a Clemson student with a production of “Big Love” by Charles Mee in 2014. She now returns as the director of the Clemson Players’ next online performance, “The Impostures of Scapin” by Moliére.
French is an actor, director and teaching artist in the Upstate of South Carolina. Since graduating in 2015, she has worked with Slate Theatre, Rising Sun Performance Company and The Woolgatherers in New York City and The Warehouse Theatre in Greenville. Over the past two years, French performed her original solo show, “Intimate Dinner; or ‘Tap Water is Fine.'” The show takes place at an exclusive pop-up dinner where French plays over 10 characters, including various servers, customers and celebrity chefs. She has performed her solo show at Capital Fringe in Washington, DC, Piccolo Spoleto in Charleston, SC, Asheville Fringe in Asheville, NC, as well as venues in New York City, Greenville and Spartanburg. She credits her Clemson study abroad experience at the Accademia dell’Arte in Tuscany, Italy, as a large influence in the development of her piece.
“I would develop stories about the characters and find out how they lived physically. I was creating the character from the outside in. Finding what physically fit the character based on the story I developed about them, the character’s voice would follow. This work comes from studying the character archetypes in Commedia.”
Now French is bringing this knowledge to current Clemson students. When searching for a director for the Clemson Players season, director of theatre Matthew Leckenbusch doesn’t just look for someone who can stage a show.
“We are looking for someone who can be a mentor to our students. Lauren French came to mind when we were initially thinking of producing “Little Women“ because of her previous work at Clemson as the director of “Big Love” and her recent success in developing new work. When we discussed changing our show due to COVID-19, Lauren contributed to the conversation. We decided to mix her experience in Commedia dell’Arte with a live Zoom experience.”
Coming back to direct has been both joyful and strange. Although she is not rehearsing with the cast in person, French is grateful for the common ground she shares with current students. “I remember what it was like to be in their shoes, balancing classes and rehearsals. We have a common language since the same professors trained us. I can reference something Kerrie [Seymour] has taught in her acting classes, and they know what I mean without having to explain.”
French leads a cast of five actors who play multiple roles. Leaning on the knowledge she gained during her study abroad, French led the cast in an exploration of their characters using the stock characters of Commedia as a guide.
“Moliere was heavily influenced by Commedia, you see the influence in his farces. The majority of my study in Italy involved learning these stock characters. With this knowledge, I was able to provide a Commedia workshop for the actors and asked them to research and decide what archetype best fit their characters. The actors have been going back to their research when discovering how their character sounds, what gestures they perform and how they communicate with other characters.”
Miscommunication is a central theme of “The Impostures of Scapin” and French found Zoom the perfect setting to stage the performance. “Spending the last year communicating and connecting over Zoom, I found things would get lost in translation. There are moments of confusion that are unique to gathering over technology. [In the production] there are dropped calls, videos freezing, people talking over each other, people not realizing they aren’t muted or their cameras are on. This is a unique opportunity to bring an old French comedy to audiences today.”
The live virtual production will premiere on Thursday, February 25 and will run until Sunday, February 28. A recording of the performance will be available starting March 1. Tickets can be purchased at www.clemson.edu/brooks. The event is free or pay-what-you-can.
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