A couple firsts will occur during the Texas State theatre department’s next production.
“A View From the Bridge”, written by Arthur Miller, is the first production of the fall semester. It is Melissa Utley’s first attempt as a main stage director at Texas State.
The play will run Oct. 6-11 at the Patti Strickel Harrison Theatre.
“I feel like my whole life I’ve been a storyteller,” Utley said. “When you’re directing a show, you’re getting to keep your eye on all aspects of how that story is told and it’s your vision. There’s something really exciting and motivating about that.”
Utley, who will graduate from Texas State in May, said she sees “A View From the Bridge” as the culmination of three years of work, study and education.
Her directorial debut at Texas State will be her final project for the program.
“This is my opportunity to put together everything I’ve learned in front of a large audience and show them my vision for a show that’s been done since the 1950s and tell it through my lens,” Utley said. “I think that’s an enormous responsibility, but I’m already feeling proud of it.”
Utley was an assistant director in two Texas State shows last year, before she submitted Miller’s work to the selection committee.
Miller’s play, chronicling the tragedy of Eddie Carbone and his family, was Utley’s first choice.
“What I love about it is that it illustrates that true tragic heroes can emerge from the common run of contemporary lives,” Utley said. “Fantastical stories can happen right next door to you.”
The groundwork for the production began with auditions and conceptualizing before the fall semester.
As the play is becoming more of a reality, Utley said the nerves have started to set in.
“You’re putting yourself out there for public consumption,” Utley said. “You’re hoping they like what they see, but there’s no guarantee for that. Those nerves never go away.”
Since the semester began, Utley said cast members have rehearsed six days a week for four hours each day.
“It’s pretty intense,” Utley said. “We’re going until late at night and then getting up the next day and doing it all over again. It’s been a whirlwind of a process, but that’s made it more fulfilling and the telling of our story a little more cohesive.”
Utley said the pre-play analysis, production meetings and casting are finalized and the show is ready in its entirety for the audience.
In the week leading up to opening night, the rest of the work is devoted to fine-tuning the little details until the play is up to Utley’s standards.
“This is the fun part where we get to put whipped cream and sprinkles and hot fudge on the already-existing sundae to polish it real nice for an audience,” Utley said. “We’ll definitely be ready.”
Nick Ortiz, theatre senior who plays Eddie Carbone, said the play will resonate with audience members because its tragic hero is not a member of the upper class.
“He’s a very hardworking man,” Ortiz said. “He’s a hard-headed, loving man. He’s just trying to get through life. He’s just trying to have family.”
Carbone is living a typical middle-class lifestyle in Brooklyn until his cousins visit his family.
When one of Carbone’s cousins falls in love with his niece, the tragedy is set in motion and the family never recovers from the fallout.
“Eddie loves too much,” Ortiz said. “His greed and love get him in the end. It’s better to settle for half, but Eddie doesn’t. He wants what’s his and I think that’s what gets him in the end.”
Unlike Shakespeare’s “Julius Caesar”, which focused on people in power, Utley said Miller’s version incorporates middle-class people to resonate with the audience.
Utley said Carbone is a flawed character whose missteps create a relatable story.
“It’s my hope that one of the things that they take away from it is a rollercoaster ride of an evening,” Utley said. “Eddie Carbone is essentially a ticking clock when the cousins arrive. He could blow at any moment.”
Utley said she is looking forward to seeing the audience’s reaction to Carbone.
“I would love for the audience to be on the edge of their seats, waiting for that moment to happen and take them for a wild ride,” Utley said.