Winter Shorts fly open

The final performance of Winter Shorts featured the poem Foghat, as slammed by Michael Shaeffer. Photo by Jesse Hoff/The Sun Star

By Kelsey Gobroski
Sun Star Contributor

Winter Shorts opened last Friday at the Salisbury Theater. Exploring the production process, students performed plays, improvisations, and poetry on a cozy and versatile set. Winter Shorts is a student-driven production that occurs every semester, and stretches its roots back to 1997.

“It’s all student-directed, student-acted, student-designed,” said Katie Sousa, the managing director of the Student Drama Association. Sousa coordinated meetings and deadlines in preparation for the event.

Sousa said students learned aspects of the theater that included publicity and the purchase of production rights. The process began when directors submitted a proposal for a play, usually a semester beforehand, she said. If the play was voted in by the SDA, and was faculty-approved, directors started meeting with designers. The SDA held auditions in early February, and actors had about five weeks to rehearse. “It gives us a chance to act as a theater company in an educational setting.” Sousa said.

Winter Shorts included not only one-act plays, but also Slam poetry, and improv troupes. “It’s really exciting to have such a broad range of people involved.” Sousa said.

Hayley Van De Bogart attended her first Winter Shorts on Saturday night. She said her favorite aspect was the range of genres and situations portrayed on the stage. “They [the actors] were very versatile,” she said. She said she “didn’t see them break character once.”

The evening began with the Ground Squirrel Improv Troupe, which students formed in 2004. Ground Squirrel took a range of prompts from the audience. Suggestions included olympic diving CD compilations, therapist and client interactions, socially awkward traits, and unique ways to die.

After the improv, stagehands rearranged the set for the first play of the evening, “Back to Normal.” The play, written by MFA student Tom Moran, first appeared at Famous for Fifteen in 2008. Along with her management duties, Sousa also directed Moran’s play. “Back to Normal” was Sousa’s first experience directing.

Sousa said they built a basic multi-leveled set to accommodate the needs of all the plays, and directors could choose which parts to use for their production. Adam Gillette used most of the set when he directed James Nicholson’s play, “Love and Peace, Mary Jo.” In the play, a man watched from afar as his friend went through various stages of leukemia.

Between the plays, local poets also had their work showcased by actors, directors, and set designers. “Poetica Theatre,” directed by Brian Lyke and Heather Warren, featured Slam and traditional poetry. The readings were embellished with set design, costume design and props. Multimedia merged with poetry, as videos of Fairbanks smokestacks billowed smoke behind an actor.

Sambit Misra, a petroleum engineer sophomore, sold tickets last semester. This semester, he acted in “Love and Peace, Mary Jo.” He said Winter Shorts taught him how to work with different types of people, and how to quickly change between convincing emotional states. “I learned how to act better,” he said.

Winter Shorts will have three more performances, next Friday and Saturday evenings with a Sunday matinee.

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8 Responses

  1. jenny Schlo says:

    I am so excited about this semesters WinterShorts. As President of the Student Drama Association I can tell you that we work very hard to bring new and exciting performances to the stage and this semester the WinterShorts is a blast! Congrats to those in it, and if you haven’t seen it yet- make sure you attend this weekend! Don’t miss this show! Thanks for the coverage SunStar!

  2. pat shaeffer says:

    You spelled the last name incorrectly.
    Can i become a journalist? I can spel reel good too.

  3. Sun Star Admin says:

    Sorry Pat – we took our information from the Winter Shorts program, which has his name listed as “Michael Schaeffer.” One error begets another. I’ve corrected the online story and we can issue a correction in next week’s print issue too, since it’s harder to take ink off a page than it is to edit a website.

    The answer to your question, by the way, is yes. You can absolutely become a journalist. Once you’re done taking classes, or sooner if you write for a student paper, you can see your name in print, which is quite a thrill. Get ready for long hours, terrible pay, the worst job market in the U.S.A., and criticism every time you trust the wrong source (even if it’s official)!

  4. Anna Gagne-Hawes says:


    Great article! However, I have just one small correction to add. Ground Squirrel formed in 2004, not 2003. I’ve also written SDA to ask them to change that information on the Website. Thanks much!

    anna gh

  5. Sun Star Admin says:

    Thanks for the heads-up, Anna… I’ll make that change.

  6. Tyler Waxdahl says:

    Pat do not spell reel goodly.

  7. Cheryl Shaeffer says:

    Dear Sun Star Admin,

    I can’t pretend to be objective about your report of the Winter Shorts, or the responses that it elicited. But I can tell you that I LOVED the featured picture of Michael Shaeffer and I LOVED your response to Pat Shaeffer………………….Tyler: you stay out of this!

  8. Kelsey Gobroski says:

    I just discovered the News Miner’s article, which appears to have misspelled Michael Shaeffer’s name as well. Hopefully you can let them know of the discrepancy — must have been looking at the same program. Sorry for the Ground Squirrel Improv mistake, glad it will be fixed on the website!

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