The student becomes the master
Miners Alley Playhouse’s latest production, “Collected Stories” by Donald Margulies, takes an in-depth look at what happens when the teacher-student relationship faces the challenges of friendship, age and betrayal.
“Collected Stories” will run at the theater, 1224 Washington Ave. in Golden, from June 7 through July 5. Shows will be at 7:30 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays, and 6 p.m. on Sundays.
“The show is about learning and watching the younger people take over,” said Billie McBride, who plays Ruth Steiner, a teacher and short story writer. “Time is also a big part of it — there’s the idea of what is being passed on to the next generation.”
The play focuses on Steiner and her student Lisa Morrison (Devon James), and takes place over the course of six years as Morrison evolves from a fresh-faced student to a respected writer.
During that time Morrison writes a successful novel based on Steiner’s affair with a famous poet, and both characters must take a look at whether or not its acceptable to use a person’s life experiences in someone else’s work.
“It’s a great story about this teacher-student relationship, and what do you want as a student and as a teacher,” said director Robert Kramer. “These two women are really close, but the writing business gets in the way.”
He also added that the play shines a light on the creative process, and how it is different for each person.
This production is a return to “Collected Stories” for McBride, who directed the play in 2002. She said that at the time she really wanted to play the character of Steiner, and that it’s a thrill to finally get a chance to fulfill that dream.
“Directing is different from acting, that I was basically starting from scratch on this,” she said. “What I did keep in mind going in was how interesting I found this character.”
Since the play has only two characters, there is a lot to learn and prepare for, McBride said. She added that she is only off the stage for one scene.
As a director, Kramer said that the small cast has led to greater work on the characters.
“The thing I love about the two-person cast is it gives a chance for true collaborations,” he said. “On these larger cast shows the director keeps everything going, but here we’re able to let the actresses talk more about their characters.”
As a teacher, Kramer said that he has a real appreciation for what Steiner’s character goes through with Morrison.
“It’s a difficult thing, because you want more for your students than you had, but it’s difficult when you see them start to outstrip you,” he said. “This show plays up the emotions really well.”
Neither Kramer or McBride classify “Collected Stories” as a comedy or drama, but rather somewhere in between, taking a little from both.
For McBride, the quality of the writing is what stands out.
“For me, the words are what really create the character, and this is an example of that — as well as some just good theater.”
Kramer said the relatability of the situation is one of the play’s major powers.
“All of us in our past has learned our craft from someone else, and so we can all relate to this,” he said.
For tickets and more information, call 303-935-3044 or visit www.minersalley.com.