Louder Than Words

Toward the end of the play Big Night, the character Myra Bonney finally sees her husband, Ed, as the selfish bonehead that he really is.

For the Short Term production of Dawn Powell’s play about a too-eventful party, director Alice Reagan ’97 worked with actress Emily Bright ’07 to make the instant of that recognition shine bright.

The actors played and replayed the beginning of Act III, in which Ed’s sham of an advertising career seems to collapse at last and with it, the Bonneys’ marriage. It is here that Bert Jones, played by Evan Hancock ’10, denies Ed the contract that will rescue his career. Here too, Myra, a former model, realizes that Ed has always valued her mostly as client bait.

A ringing telephone had to be timed just right. The blocking needed fine-tuning, particularly a grapple between the Bonneys that at one point resembled, instead, a slow-motion lindy hop.

Then there was perfecting the pivotal instant when Myra sees the real Ed, played by Brendan Small ’10. Taking Reagan’s direction, Bright was assured and businesslike. Finally, Reagan told her to sit down after a certain line. “It’s like, just then Myra saw the whole story,” the director explained. And that simple physical act drove the point home.

In a rehearsal in the black-box Gannett Theater, Reagan (above left) coaches three cast members: Emily Bright ’07, Brendan Small ’10, and Evan Hancock ’10.

In a separate interview, Reagan explained that younger actors, especially, can’t “take for granted that their characters say or do something in a given moment. There’s a reason why, and if you understand the reason you’ll be better suited to play it.”

A director, she said, helps actors find the bridge between themselves and their characters. Bright credited Reagan with doing just that, creating “a dynamic balance between allowing us freedom to explore our characters, and guiding us with a firm hand.”

A theater major at Bates, Reagan returned this spring as a Mellon Learning Associate. This New York resident won the prestigious Princess Grace Award in Directing for the 2006–07 season, and last winter got her first New York Times drama review.

“I’m still figuring out what a director’s most important job is,” Reagan admitted. “One thing I think is important is letting the actors have the play. It’s theirs in the end, it’s them on stage, they take the bows.”

“I think young actors feeling ownership of their work is important.”