Theatre takes new approach with ‘Home for the Holidays’

Students Rhianon Hall (left), Lane Birchmeier (middle) and Jared Kaufman (right) sing White Christmas in “Home for the Holidays.” Vanguard Photo | Brooke Elward

The theatre department shook up its annual holiday play with edgier performances and a new director.

Karla Kash, a director and choreographer with 14 years’ experience, joined SVSU two weeks before the start of the semester. She replaced former director and professor Richard Roberts after his retirement.

“I didn’t know that I would be directing this when I was first hired,” Kash said. “The guy who had the position before me retired really late. … I had my on-campus interview two Fridays before the semester started. I got the call Monday from the dean. I accepted it later that day, and I was on campus a week later.”

After agreeing to direct the play during her on-site interview, Kash began planning a variety show that would feature both holiday and non-holiday performances.

“I came up with this idea of a student going home for the holidays with his girlfriend,” she said. “They’re a theatre major and a music major, and their families are bugging them about what they are going to do with that as a degree. So, they start showing off stuff that they’ve worked on, which is stuff we do in the production.”

While the show featured more traditional holiday tunes, performances also included songs and dance numbers from “Hamilton,” “West Side Story,” “Elf,” “Anything Goes” and other popular musicals and movies.

Jared Kaufman, a theatre education and communication sophomore, performed various parts for his sixth mainstage SVSU production.

“I was in the dance ensemble as well as the vocal ensemble in multiple different scenes,” he said. “The most challenging thing about this show was stepping into the role of a dancer. I’ve never taken dance classes, just a few workshops here and there.”

He said he appreciated having a longer time to rehearse than in previous years.

“In past years, the holiday show has been about a four-day process,” Kaufman said. “We would get the script, rehearse, have a tech rehearsal and then perform. With this show, we auditioned in September and have been having rehearsals since the end of October, so it has been a more traditional time frame.”

Kash said the cast and crew enjoyed doing a less traditional holiday show.

“The students liked what they did in the past, but I think they know the non-theatre audience will like this more,” she said. “I wanted to make it edgier for today’s college student.”

Besides losing 10 hours of tech rehearsal the week of the play because of snow, Kash said rehearsals went well.

“It went really smoothly,” she said. “The only challenge was that there’s so many night classes here. … That makes rehearsing a little challenging. So, now that I know that, if I’m here next year – I’m only visiting – we’re talking about me directing a musical, and I will have to really work the schedule to accommodate the night classes.”

Kaufman said working with Kash for the first time went smoothly.

“It’s always a little awkward when you go into a show with a director you’ve never worked with before, and it is a little different than what you are used to,” he said. “But that’s how we grow and learn as students and performers. She is giving lots of different students opportunities to be involved in multiple ways, and it is great to see the collaboration with all these new people – not just Karla, but students as well.”

Natasha Nash, a theatre and communication senior who worked as the show’s lighting director, agreed with Kaufman.

“Working with Karla has been very beneficial,” she said. “Being able to work with a new director and work under her process has given me more experience in the skills of communication and collaboration that I can carry with me after graduation.”

Karla said she was impressed with the talent of the cast and crew.

“I would like to stress the importance of how hardworking the students are – not just the actors, but especially the production and stage management teams,” she said. “It’s all student designers, and they are fantastic.
Normally with student designers, I would have been more nervous, especially with losing 10 hours of technical rehearsal.”

Kaufman also said he admired his peers’ skills and dedication.

“This has been a great learning experience, and it’s truly been a blast to work with so many of my talented peers,” he said.

Nash said she thought the play was “quite successful.”

“There were definitely some hiccups, but that can always happen with live theatre,” she said. “Being able to pull this show together in two rehearsals with full tech was quite a stressful but amazing process. Watching the end result was definitely humbling.”

Kaitlyn Farley

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