One man sits alone in a row of a nearly empty theater holding a microphone, as actors stand frozen on the stage. But this scene isn’t one of a failed production; rather, it’s a rehearsal for the School of Theatre’s latest production.
As Robert Schneider, director of “From Up Here,” tells the actors to remain still so that they can be marked for lighting, he’s piecing together one of the many components of telling a story.
“I love stories, and [directing] is awesome because you’re not the only one telling the story. It’s a really collaborative effort,” he said.
Tyler Reilly, who plays Daniel in the show, said though Schneider gives a clear indication of what he wants, he still remains open to the artistic vision of all those involved — a mark of a good director.
Reilly (graduate-theater) was not the only actor who said he has enjoyed working with Schneider on the show. Kevin Clay, who has taken on the role of Kenny, said the show has been one of the “best experiences” he has had acting.
“He has such a great vision for everything and works us so hard to get every little moment down,” Clay (sophomore-musical theater) said. “It’s great to be pushed so hard to really develop a well-rounded character.”
Schneider, assistant professor in the School of Theatre, said he was drawn to direct “From Up Here” because of its “theme of acceptance of imperfection.” The modern comedy, written by Liz Flahive, tells the story of family members trying to find their way back to normalcy after experiencing an “unspeakable tragedy,” he said.
Though Schneider cites storytelling as his favorite aspect of directing, he said the play provided a particular challenge because it’s void of a direct plot line.
“You’re trying to discover a lot of things that aren’t in the script; you have to play detective,” he said.
Despite the lack of plot, Clay said the show will resonate with audience members because “everyone can see elements of themselves or of their own families.”
In order to make the show as “clear as possible” for viewers, Schneider has had to consider all of the details from how loud the wind sounds against the actors’ dialogue to which dog pitches are played.
“He’s making it rather cinematic,” said Kenzie Ross (graduate-theater), who plays Grace. “[It has a] quick, snappy rhythm and I think he’s mastered that very well.”
“From Up Here” opens at 7:30 tonight and runs until Oct. 5 at the Penn State Downtown Theatre, 146 S. Allen St. Tickets for the preview and matinee are $16, while evenings are $18.