Spoon River College Theatre students Lauren Avery and Kaitlynn Tutt won’t be on the stage of this year’s spring production; instead they will be directing the actors who are on the stage.
“Both of these students came to me—independently of each other—and said they would like to try something different,” said Douglas Okey, SRC Theatre program director. “I’ve worked with them the past two years and while letting a student direct a play is not something I would normally consider, I’m confident in the ability of these two to do a great job.”
This year’s production is a series of three one-act plays, lending itself well to multiple directors. Avery will direct “The Man in The Case” by Pulitzer-Prize winning playwright Wendy Wasseestein, Tutt will direct “Here We Are” by novelist, poet, and Oscar nominee Dorothy Parker, and Okey will direct “On Tidy Endings” by Tony-award winning actor and writer Harvey Fierstein.
Avery said her first role on stage was in The Nit Wits at Canton High School. “I was part of a group with no real lines, but I played it with enthusiasm to the fullest extent I could!”
At SRC, Avery has been active both on stage and backstage in the theatre program, although the two-year pandemic made it a challenge. In the fall of 2020, she auditioned for the lead role in Miss Julie and got it, only to have the production cancelled. She appeared in the one-act drama Trifles in the fall of 2021, which had to be filmed and then released as a video. She finally experienced being on the SRC stage with an audience in attendance this past fall when she played Margaret Leavitt in Silent Sky.
She jokes that she’s “drowning but in a good way” regarding her first attempt at directing—”I need floaties to swim!”—but she’s serious about learning all she can from Okey. One of the most important things she’s learned so far? “My opinions are worth something.”
Avery’s passion for live theatre has inspired her to pursue a career as playwright and an actor. “I’m already working on two plays, and I plan to transfer to Lincoln College, which has a good theatre program.”
Tutt’s first stage part was in Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat when she was six years old, and it was just the beginning. She was a member of the Thespian Club at Canton High School, and says her all-time favorite production (so far) has been Mama Mia.
Amanda Vandermeer and Tony Militello both had a major influence on Tutt. “Amanda was theatre mom, director, and best friend all in one.” Fun fact about Tutt; she can play any wind instrument, and will be part of the next SRC Community Chorus Production, Into the Woods.
After being a stage manager—and loving it—Tutt felt directing was the next step. “I had a vague idea of what I was getting into, but there have definitely been a few moments when I wondered what I was doing. It’s been good to have Lauren going through it with me.”
Tutt has planned on being an elementary teacher since “forever,” but is now changing that up and will double major in theatre and education at WIU. When asked to name one of the most important things she has learned about directing from Okey, Tutt replied, “To trust my gut and not be so hard on myself.”
Okey said that he’s offered the two some guidance, but not much. “I never had any serious doubts about them stepping up and being able to handle this. I know they are capable.”
Avery and Tutt will earn class credit for completing this theatre practicum, and both are recipients of SRC Theatre performing grants.
SRC Theatre presents its plays in the Taylor Hall Theatre on the college’s Canton Campus. Here We Are: An Evening of One-Act Plays runs March 4 and 5 at 7 p.m. and March 6 at 3 p.m. Tickets are $10 each and can be reserved using the reservations form on the Theatre page at SRC.edu or by calling (309) 649-6257.
Lauren Avery, Douglas Okey, and Kaitlynn Tutt