Students at Play

How did your kids spend their summer vacation? A handful of Palm Beach County’s most talented middle and high school theater students spent their time off working with professionals at the Maltz Jupiter Theatre as part of the organization’s Young Artists’ Chair program. Ranging in age from 12 to 17, these students devoted weeks to producing Eugène Ionesco’s absurdist play Rhinoceros, taking care of everything from costume design to public relations. Audiences are invited to attend their final show on Saturday, August 13 at 7:30 p.m. Below, director Abbie Levasseur, a 17-year-old rising senior at Alexander W. Dreyfoos School of the Arts, reflects upon the experience and what to expect from the show.


The cast and crew of Rhinoceros. Photo by Jen Vasbinder Is this your first time directing a play? What drew you to the job of director?
Levasseur: This is my first time directing a play, which is super exciting. I was drawn to the job of directing because directors have a specific vision and idea in their head that they reflect in the piece, which is something I really wanted to explore. I also enjoy collaborating with my peers and hearing everyone’s ideas to ultimately create something that affects the audience.
What kind of research did you do on Eugène Ionesco and this play in particular?
I researched both Eugène Ionesco and his premise and inspiration for writing this play. He was walking down a street at noon—seeing white walls and a clear blue sky—when light struck him and he had a sort of “awakening.” Then he wrote Rhinoceros after this experience. What is interesting is that he reflects this scene in the beginning of the play. I also made a vision board of all the research and pictures I compiled, which really helped inspire my vision for the story and the set. I also researched the time period 1959, which we chose to set the show in. A lot of crucial historical events happened during that time, including Fidel Castro coming to power. A decade has also passed since the end of World War II.
What are some of the challenges of directing an absurdist play?
Some of the challenges of directing an absurdist play are making interesting staging choices, keeping the story grounded in truth, thinking outside of the box, and incorporating the play’s symbolism.
Which themes of the play do you hope to highlight?
The themes of the play that I hope to highlight are conformity, staying true to oneself, and the power of speaking up for what is right. I think it will be very interesting to see how the audience reacts and how they tie in historical events and current events—especially now in 2016—to the themes in the play. I hope these elements really resonate with the audience.
What’s been your favorite part of this process?
My favorite part of this process has been working with and learning from the other student designers, the actors, and our mentors. Collaboration is key. We can’t wait to show audiences what we’ve created.

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