my capstone experience

Ashley Goulter '08

Ashley Goulter '08 is a Communication Studies major and a theatre minor from Amesbury, Mass. A member of the National Honor Society for Communication Studies (Lambda Pi Eta) and Safe Zones, Goulter is directing G.L. Horton's one-act play “The Gender Agenda” for her Capstone project. The 1983 comedy is about members of a liberal church's Women's Committee who plot a protest for equality at the upcoming denominational convention.

Describe the subject of your Capstone project and why you chose to focus on this subject.

I found G.L. Horton's “The Gender Agenda” online at the playwright's Web site. At the time of my search I was contemplating producing two one-act plays, but I decided to focus and dedicate all my energy to just one.

“The Gender Agenda” is a play that speaks to me on several levels - it touches on gender inequality, racial profiling, age discrimination, religious differences, family issues, and more. There is really something for everyone.

What research did you conduct for this project?

I cast the play before winter break, and over the break I re-read many of the books I had studied in my theater courses here at Colby-Sawyer. I also tried to analyze the play bit by bit, asking myself, What does each character want in this show? Where would they live? How do they feel right now? What does Jan's apartment, where the play takes place, look like? I thought about each of the characters, their nature, their feelings, and their desires, which is an essential process because without a clear and full understanding of each character, the play would just fall short. A good director knows what each character wants and gets that message across to the audience.

I also drew upon my own experience with a friend who underwent a sexual re-assignment operation and the struggles and confrontations that s/he went through, and still struggles with today. My relationship-with her/him was my biggest motivation for this show - to remind people that others are not what they seem.

What did you learn through your Capstone project, and in what ways is it a culmination of your learning experiences at Colby-Sawyer? What did you find most challenging about the project?

The biggest lesson I have learned from this experience is to always be prepared for whatever life throws at you. I had two cast members drop out, and had to deal with schedule conflicts. Working together with so many people and being a good communicator was the biggest challenge. Communicating is essential in any business, and producing a play is no different. Not everyone can be flexible, and my needs are not their highest priority. There are so many people working together to run this show, and for one student trying to work on as much as I can, it sometimes feels like an overwhelming process. Still, there is nothing else I would rather be doing.

When I decided to do a play for my Capstone project, I understood early on that I would be independent in my works -- cast it on my own, find my own rehearsal space, make and design my own set, develop my own advertising, all the grunt work, everything, on my own. As a director, you need to understand balance ... and balancing all of the little things that go along with a play of any size is a challenge.

The other biggest lesson was learning to be a good problem-solver. Anyone who works in theater knows the importance of good problem solving -- expect that something is going to go wrong and prepare yourself as much as possible to solve the problem, then move on. As my advisor and professor Jerry Bliss told me, "It's all part of the process," and his words have encouraged me to keep going. All the professors helping me in this process have been the best support network, and for that, I want to say thank you.

What was most fun and rewarding for you in the process of creating your Capstone?

Seeing my cast develop into confident actors who are good listeners is a reward for me. Knowing that all of their hard work and dedication will pay off is the reward -- my actors are the hardest working students I have come across, and even in the drastic cast change that happened about three weeks ago, they just went with the flow and have continued working together. I have faith in them; they will put on a terrific show, I promise!

Another reward has been working with the technical director to make the set. After putting in all the hours to make the set, between all the other shows that the theater hosts over the semester, you can actually see your process. It's a wonderful feeling to think back to when your set was nothing more than a pile of lumber, and now it's turned into a piece of functioning art. It's wonderful.

What do you hope will be the lasting value of your Capstone project, both for you and others?

I truly hope that people will walk away from the show aware of how they think of others, and reflect on the issues that are important to them and other issues that they might have missed. I hope the audience comes away with a better understanding of just what some people struggle with every day---the gender inequality and the lack of education and understanding to help them.

Equality is an important part of my life and I truly believe that everyone should be treated equally, regardless of gender, race, sexual orientation, or any other facet. The only way to achieve any goal is through education. I hope that with this play, people will gain a little knowledge and see through the eyes of the women on stage with a better understanding of what they go through and what they are fighting for.

Follow Ashley's adventures of directing “The Gender Agenda” on her blog