Production Insight: UNA artists at work

Campus Spotlight


Emma Wright

A handful of the cast members from Men On Boats take a second to relax between scenes at dress rehearsal for the production. A number of the cast members from the play are also featured in the One Act Festival showing

Laura Leigh Vought, A&E Editor

The University of North Alabama’s Department of Cinematic Arts & Theatre has had a busy year, and they are not slowing down anytime soon. 

On Oct. 21, the department debuted the historically-based production, “Men On Boats,” in the Black Box Theatre. The production was the second addition of the Fall 2021 semester and stretched across two weekends. 

Carrying 11 cast members, the play follows the historical account of one-armed explorer, John Powell, as his crew journeyed on an 1869 expedition to chart the entirety of the Green and Colorado Rivers. At the time of the expedition, there had yet to be a recorded account of any person who successfully traveled and mapped the Rushing Rapids. 

Satirical in nature, the play hosts an all-female cast who play all-male characters. Poking fun at the frailty of life and the prejudice of the past, the men must survive the rushing waters together in order to leave their mark on the history. 

A senior in the department, Mary-Elizabeth Moore, breathed life into the lead role of Powell during the entirety of the play’s runtime. “I would say that it went very well altogether” Moore said. “Everybody was really nice and supportive from rehearsals to the end. It gets to be where you see their faces and know each other relatively well with it being such a small department.”

“When it comes to auditions,” Moore said. “We usually get a pretty good turnout.” 

Moore transferred to the university in spring 2021, and has spent the majority of her time since enrollment in preparation for the latest artistic endeavor that the department hosts. 

“When you have a small department, you get to do more by virtue of not having a lot of competition,” Moore said when asked about the community involvement in the department’s theatre productions. 

“We did have quite a few new people cast in “Men On Boats” that aren’t in the department,” Moore said. “But that also had a cast of, like, 11 people so there was a lot more opportunity.”

The department has plans to maintain stamina as the upcoming spring 2022 performances have already been decided. 

“I know what it is, but I can’t tell you,” Moore said. “A lot of us know what they are, but we can’t tell you yet.”

While the public must wait to see what the spring semester has in store for the department, the fall semester has more to offer from the hearts of the artists. 

The department is hosting the One Act Festival where students will direct, produce and act in an unpublished play that lasts for only… you guessed it: one act.

Moore, along with a number of her fellow “Men On Boats” cast mates, are also participating in the upcoming festival. 

Junior Emma Higby, who portrayed the character known as “Old Shady” in “Men On Boats,” will be directing the unpublished play “The Conversation” by Michelle Miller. 

“It’s been a bit of a quick turnaround to go from “Men On Boats” directly into the One Act Festival,” Higby said. “While it has been put together quite quickly, it’s been a lot of fun.”

Higby, along with fellow student directors in the festival, are responsible for monitoring all production aspects of their plays, as well as hosting rehearsals. The actors in each play are also students. 

“I love directing,” Higby said. “Even though this is technically the first thing I’ve directed outside of a class.” The department has proven itself to be a fruitful garden for experimentation in theatrics as Psychology major, Soukayna Sabro, who played William Dunn in “Men On Boats,” is also participating in the One Act festival and has limited experience in the field.

“I’m in the One Act this semester”, Sabro said. “And I’ll be auditioning next semester. If you want to act, you really have so many opportunities to do that in the department.”

The department has earned a reputation among newcomers, such as Sabro, of being inclusive and fruitful for any person who has a passion for the performing arts.

“Anyone can audition for anything we do” Higby said. “But UNA students always come first. Only after we’ve gone through the student auditions would we reach out to the public. There’s a lot of people that go into these plays. If you’re involved in any way in the department, you’ve most likely aided in play production in some way at least once.”

According to Higby, around 30 people contributed to “Men On Boats.” In addition, it is not uncommon for actors and actresses to take on crew roles on top of their characters.

“While I was Old Shady, I was also the Vocal Coach,” said Higby. 

“Oh, it’s a full-time job putting on these performances” Higby said. “We all just want to make them perfect, so we put the best effort out that we can.”