Upcoming drama dept. performance will show the brilliance of evolution

“Arctic Circle” director anticipates opening weekend


This collaboration between Macher and Grissom is sure to surprise audiences.

Courtesy Mike Bailey

The University drama department's production of "The Arctic Circle (and a recipe for Swedish pancakes)" opens this weekend at the Helms Theatre. Written by alumna Samantha Macher and directed by Assoc. Playwriting Prof. Doug Grissom, the play pushes students to work like professionals in what has become an evolving and rewarding experience.

In anticipation of the show, Grissom talked about how he came to be involved in the production. He described his move from playwriting to academia as one made “on a whim.”

Grissom started writing letters to universities while working part-time in New York’s theater industry and found himself in a position at West Virginia University. Upon taking the job, Grissom said he was nervous but pleasantly rewarded. He eventually ended up at the University because of it.

Grissom articulated how playwriting differs from directing, even though he maintained that they work together organically.

"It's interesting because they're so connected in a lot of ways in terms of what you're trying to do," Grissom said.

He also brought up the differences between the roles.

"Generating material is a solitary art,” he said. “[And] directing is very collaborative.”

Grissom said he is excited to be working with his former student, Macher. The two workshopped one of her past plays entitled “Arctic Circle,” and broadened it into the full show. The play had already been produced and published, but their collaboration gave Macher the chance to "work on it and expand it."

"It starts with the script — I love the script itself," Grissom said.

Grissom's previous experience includes Off-Broadway and regional productions, but he explained he has actually done a lot more work with students.

“We try to give the students as much as of professional experience as we can,” he said.

Both the director and actors have enjoyed the experience. Ali Cheraghpour, a second-year College student who plays John and Howard in the show, said being treated like a professional is one of the most rewarding parts of the process.

“When I'm given direction, I am responsible to get there, and that's been pushing me to do more, which I like,” he said. "It's my first U.Va. drama show, and it's an all undergrad cast. … That doesn't happen too often."

The process of improving Macher’s work has been special to Grissom.

"I haven't grown tired of working with the play," he said. "I liked the play when I first read it … [and the more I've worked with it] the more I've loved it, and that doesn't always happen."

With such fantastic talent, a dynamic stage and an all-new script, this show is sure to impress.

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