Stephens student theater to perform 'Moonlight and Valentino'

Tuesday, February 24, 2009 | 5:05 p.m. CST; updated 7:56 p.m. CST, Tuesday, February 24, 2009
At left, Stephanie Nieman plays Lucy during a rehearsal for "Moonlight and Valentino" at Stephens College's Warehouse Theatre on Monday. In this scene, Nieman's character stands, at an uncomfortable loss for words, as Sarah Pinzl's character, Rebecca, breaks down after the loss of her husband.

COLUMBIA — Rachel Ellersieck, the student director of the play "Moonlight and Valentino," said she has been blessed with a talented crew. They all took the stage Friday night for a technical rehearsal at the Stephens College Warehouse Theatre. 

"Warehouse Theatre is different from our Playhouse theater," Ellersieck said, referring to the college's Macklanburg Playhouse. "It is all student-run: student directors, student actors and student crew."

If you go

What: "Moonlight and Valentino," a play by Stephens College students

When: 7:30 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday

Where: Warehouse Theatre, 104 Willis Ave.

Admission: $8 general, $6 students and seniors. Call the box office at 876-7199 for tickets.

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It is Ellersieck's first time directing a full-length play at Stephens.

"In the Playhouse theater, it's a learning process," Ellersieck said. "You're lucky to be with professors who have worked professionally and have done over 150 shows. We have to make our own mistakes and learn from them here at Warehouse."

She paused to suggest that one of the actresses try a different blouse.

Ellersieck's admiration for the actors appears to be reciprocated. The actors said as much while they worked on their makeup in the dressing room.

"I really like working with Rachel," said Sarah Pinzl, who plays a woman grieving after the death of her husband. "She is so natural and free about letting you do what you feel works best for your character."

Kyra Koeling, another main character, called Ellersieck phenomenal and said every rehearsal is fun. "I love the bonding that we've been doing as a cast," she said.

"Moonlight and Valentino" is about a group of women and a painter named Valentino who, Koeling said, "is the man of all these womens' dreams." But he comes into their lives at a time when they are all coping with loss.  The play, she said, "has a lot to do with finding yourself and the struggle with self-discovery." 

"These characters are all coming to terms with themselves and are dealing with the fact that there are losses of all kinds in life," said Denise Saylor, who plays the stepmother of Pinzl's character.

Saylor is a transfer student at Stephens who loves what the student-based Warehouse Theatre has to offer. "It's a lot more laid back," she said. "We get to make a lot more choices and have more discussions about how we want things to be done." 

The Warehouse Theatre includes a thrust stage, around which the audience is seated on three sides. "It's an interesting concept," Saylor said. "I think it's fun, but for a director it's a little more challenging."

Ellersieck agreed that directing in a thrust theater is much different. "You have to remember," she said, "that you are catering to an audience on three sides, not just one."

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