Photo by Kyle Crawford

Senior Allie Charton is a triple threat in theatre: She acts, directs and writes plays at CHS. Her one passion that stands out among the rest, however, lies in directing comedies.

“I feel like I have a really creative mind when it comes to comedies. I think I know how people should act and how lines should be said that would engage the audience and make them laugh,” Charton said.

Charton began her theatre career at CHS as an actress with her first role in “Mid-Summer Jersey” her sophomore year.

Along with directing, Charton said she enjoys acting in comedic settings as well.

“I like to play the sarcastic characters; I like (the) kind of comedy where a character is just really sarcastic, very relaxed and loose. I don’t like dramatic characters as much,” she said.

Although she continues acting, appearing in “The Importance of Being Elektra” and “The Beaux’ Stratagem” this fall, Charton found a new love in directing when she assistant directed “The Great Gatsby” last spring.

“I absolutely loved it, and so I thought I would really like to be a (Studio One Acts) director. I feel like I really know how to direct, so I applied (to direct), and I got picked, and I was really happy,” she said. “I think I might be trying to do directing in college.”

With a great love for both directing and acting, Charton said she is having a difficult time deciding which of the two to pursue in the future.

“I’m actually very confused with that right now. Some schools, I’m trying out for acting, and some schools, I’m trying out for directing,” she said.

Charton was chosen to direct the Studio One Act “Soap Opera,” a 28-minute comedy featuring a repairman who is torn between his love for a washing machine and girl.

“(The repairman) doesn’t know what to do, but the washing machine gets more demanding toward the end, so he picks the girl,” Charton said.

While directing the comedy, Charton said she learned about a lot of aspects of directing along the way.

“There are a lot of things that go into directing that I didn’t realize until (I directed Studio) One Acts. You have to know where you want your actors and how you want your actors to say things and how you want them to interact with other people on stage,” she said.

According to Charton, the director makes decisions regarding a variety of elements in the play, including the set design, the actors’ costumes and the lighting of the stage.

“Everything you see on stage is (the) director’s vision,” she said.

Charton describes herself as a more controlling kind of director, which she said is essential for comedies.

“I like to tell people where to go and stuff especially with comedies because I feel like I’m the one watching it, so I am the one seeing how the audience will watch it,” she said. “I don’t feel like (actors flowing freely) would work well with comedies.”

Charton notes, however, that some directors she has encountered at CHS have different approaches to the process, such as Jim “Pete” Peterson, a director of theatre and performing arts teacher at CHS.

Charton said, “(The approach) depends on who’s directing. Some directors, like Pete, will be like (to the actors), ‘Go and do what you want,’ and so we would go do things ourselves.”

Along with teaching the theatre classes at Carmel, Peterson has also directed and written plays and short films that have been performed by CHS students, in addition to working on some of his own projects.

Many of the productions Peterson has written for CHS students have been adaptations of others’ works, starting in 2001 with “Antigone,” a Greek tragedy by Sophocles, and “The Importance of Being Elektra,” an adaptation of Oscar Wilde’s comedy, “The Importance of Being Earnest.

“Everyone should be talking (during production), especially with a comedy. Everyone should be closer, and actors should be asking questions constantly about what they should be doing, and the director should be telling them. No one should be quiet in the process.”

Senior Allie Charton

“For the stage, I’m trying to kill two birds with one stone. We’re trying to get classical literature in an approachable way. So when I did ‘Antigone’ we were trying to make this old, stodgy Greek tragedy into something that (the students) could relate to and understand,” he said. “Same thing for (‘The Importance of Being Elektra’); we kind of took the (central idea of ‘The Importance of Being Earnest’) and ran with it.”

Peterson has also written and directed short films. The first film that he shot at CHS was called “Promises.” It featured several CHS students and told different stories about different ways people ask their dates to prom.

“We basically shot it during SRT,” he said. “It was a very cute comedy.”

Peterson said, however, that not every film he has done was intended to be shot with high school students.

“I did another short film called ‘Pretty or Not.’ It was more of a serious one about relationship abuse,” he said. “This one, I did on my own, and I actually used some former students, some alumni. It was not for teenagers.”

While filming “Pretty or Not,” Peterson said he had a difficult time casting, which he considers to be one of the most important components of the creative process of directing.

“Casting is about 80 percent, I would say, of the job of the director,” he said. “Once you get it cast, if you cast it right, it’s pretty easy once you get the right people in the right roles. If you cast it wrong, it’s a headache, and you are looking at a lot of work. It’s tough decisions, casting.”

In her own experience, Charton said she has also encountered some difficulty in casting and learned lessons from the process.

“It’s really easy to typecast or precast people. You try to keep that to a minimum,” she said. “It’s funny because you think you have people in mind, and then when you see auditions, you can look at (those people) and think, ‘why did I ever have you in my mind? You don’t match the character.’”

Along with directing, Peterson also writes short films. The inspiration for his writing has come from several different places.

“The inspiration from writing (‘Promises’) was just a collection of stories I had heard kids talk about being asked to prom,” he said. “My inspiration for (‘Pretty or Not’) was from when I was a kid playing hide and seek with my older sister. The whole premise of it came from the image of a little girl running and finding a place to hide and then, once she gets there, finding an adult woman hiding there herself because she is a victim of abuse. That idea spurred the whole film.”

Charton has also played a role in the writing process before. In her theatre class, she wrote a short play about bullying that will be performed in front of middle school students. However, she does not enjoy writing as much as she does directing or acting.

“I find writing shows, (for) me personally, a little hard. Some people don’t like directing; I feel that way with writing. It’s just not in my element,” she said.

Among writing, directing and acting, Charton feels that theatre is truly a collaborative process.

“Everyone should be talking (during production), especially with a comedy,” she said. “Everyone should be closer, and actors should be asking questions constantly about what they should be doing, and the director should be telling them. No one should be quiet in the process.”

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Grant Smith