FSU senior directs his own show with the Hilltop Players

(Percy and Pandora in "Pandora's Mirror." Photo by Amanda Martin.)

At about 5:30 p.m. on Wednesday, April 4, all is quiet in DPAC. One by one, cast and crew members make their way into the cavernous auditorium. Before the work gets underway, laughing voices sharing stories about classes and social drama create a low hum of sound, filling the empty space. Everyone participating in tonight’s rehearsal is a student at Framingham State, and they are preparing to put on a production of the student-written and directed play, “Pandora’s Mirror,” Thursday night at 7 p.m.

Junior Daniel Regnier, the mastermind behind the play, which is the first full-length production created by a member of the Hilltop Players, both wrote and directed the nearly two-hour show. However, it didn’t start out as the play they are about to perform.

“I wrote this when I was in freshman year. Last semester, I turned it into a script over the weekend,” Regnier said between casual bites of a pear. 

The work, originally a book, went through “many alterations” over the process of staging it, and Regnier said it didn’t translate well at first.

“Everyone’s got good ideas, though. They always say, ‘Wouldn’t it be easier if we just did this?’ or, ‘Shouldn’t we like this instead of this?’”

Wednesday’s run was a full dress rehearsal, which means the company ran the show in full makeup and costume, microphones and with every light and sound cue.

As the actors were fitted with their mics, they painted a captivating tableau onstage. Regnier, the director, sat with an actor on a couch, giving him clearly passionate notes about how to play a specific moment. Meanwhile, another actor paced the front of the stage in a bathrobe, running over his lines to himself.

During the mic check, the sound engineer shouted to the actors to quiet down; they were all giggling and chatting still. He needed them to give a few lines each. One by one, they delivered a few words, some choosing to use lines from the show, others taking alternative routes: “Line, line, lines, f*ck you, lines, lines, lines,” said sophomore Kyle Bunker to roars of laughter.

The sound engineer replied, “I won’t take that personally.”

Once the technical director, senior Brittany Yates, yelled “Going dark!” the actors hurried to the wings to take their places, but not before Regnier could give them last-minute notes and encourage them to give the run all they could.

Although Regnier clearly wanted the run to get going, he remained amazingly poised when the tech team needed to check a few more cues, cheerfully urging them to “take your time.” The smile on Regnier’s face showed how happy he was just to have his vision coming to fruition.

As the run began, I was impressed by how connected the actors were onstage. What was a minute before a rowdy gang of college students having a great time together was now a professional acting company, investing their focus and emotion to putting on a strong run of their show. The mood in the auditorium shifted with the lights, and I was sucked in.

While I won’t give away any spoilers, audiences can expect to laugh and cry at this show. The writing is smart and the acting strong.  It is more than worth the price of the ticket.

Rocha, who plays the role of Paul in the show, said the process has taught him to be “extremely patient” in terms of building his character and working with Regnier.

“He left it up to us to build. We never seem satisfied enough, but then he comes over and tells us everything is fine.”

Kyle Robert Hicks, a junior who plays one of the protagonists, Percy, in the play, said his favorite part about his character was his unique “expressiveness,” and “humanistic” nature.

Working with his fellow cast members, he said he loved the “way we conduct ourselves that creates such a contrast between us. You can distinguish who really is who.”

Hicks described the play’s creation as a “double-edged sword,” meaning although it is an original piece leaving much of the creative choices to the actors, there are “a lot of last-minute changes to the script and the blocking, because we have the writer and director in our midst and they can do whatever they want.

“It’s a challenge, but it’s incredibly liberating.”