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Ghosts Inhabit UAlbany’s Arena Theatre in New Play

By Katy Dara

Published October 8, 2019

Sammie Gault and Colin Gioia during a scene. (Savannah Lanz / UAlbany Theater Department)

It is rare that theater students get to work with a playwright on an original piece, developing it organically for the first time. But, that is what the UAlbany theater department is doing with the production of “Six Scenes in a Theater” by Kathryn Walat, running Oct. 16-20.

The episodic plot revolves around college students from both 1969 and 2019.

In 1969, a theatre department deals with the untimely death of two star students. In 2019, their spirits remain in the theater, illuminated by an eerie ever-present ghost light. Although separated by 50 years, a passion for theatre is the unifying force of the play’s characters as they navigate love, loss, grief, joy, and terror.

Walat, an assistant professor and resident playwright here at UAlbany, wrote the play with the Performing Arts Center’s Arena Theatre in mind, a theater that gives the audience a 360 view of the production and cast.

Mickey O_Donnell and Max Conaway act out a scene. (Savannah Lanz / UAlbany Theater Department)

Brought to life by UAlbany students, this will be the first ever production of the play.

“I knew I was writing something for our students, and for this space, the Arena Theatre,” Walat explains.

“I also knew I wanted ghosts,” she says. “From there, the idea of having two different time periods and switching back-and-forth came to me.”

Perfect for Halloween, “Six Scenes in a Theater” explores how a theater can be spooky in ways that are irreplaceable anywhere else. Being crafted for UAlbany, it especially resonates with theater students.

“I am beyond excited to be a part of this process,” says Mickey O’Donnell, a senior theater major who plays the character Angelica.

“The specific community at UAlbany is I think very interested in telling our own stories and having our own voices be heard,” O’Donnell says.

The play brings the audience back in time, creating a connection between the past and present.

“It’s partly about the timelessness of people making theater, especially within a college setting,” says Walat. “There’s also a sense of urgency that I think links this time period to 1969, particularly looking at the activism of young people now, and how that connects the two time periods.” 

Described by Walat as “a love letter to theatre,” the show’s characters represent all aspects of a theatre program, from actors to playwrights to directors to stage managers to designers. 

“I love being a part of anything within the department, especially as an actor in a newly written show,” says Sammie Gault, a sophomore theater major playing the character Jan. “It really prepares you for performing in the outside world, which is really important to me as someone who wants to do this for the rest of her life.”

Matthew Heyda and Samantha Wilson act out a scene. (Savannah Lanz / UAlbany Theater Department)

Gault finds significance in the way Walat has written her play and interpreted it for the theater.

“Being able to have that constantly adapting script and themes and messages within the show is really important to me,” Gault says. “And it always brings new ideas to light.”

Having the playwright in the presence of their cast is a rare thing. Walat made sue she was always there.

“It’s an awesome experience just because Kate [Walat] is here during our rehearsals,” says Max Conaway, a senior theater major who plays Michael, referring to the rare chance to actually work with a playwright in the rehearsal process.

Throughout the production process, Walat has earned the respect and admiration of her cast members.

“It’s always super nice to see Kate give a thumbs-up and a smile after seeing her work come to life,” Conaway says. “She did a staged reading of it last year, but this is our opportunity to bring it to life, which is a really fun and awesome experience.”

Max Conaway and Billy Feerick act out a scene. (Savannah Lanz / UAlbany Theater Department)

Walat also teaches several classes including Plays in Process. This class studies a play from its genesis in the playwright's mind to the final product in a full production. This semester, her own play is part of the curriculum, providing an interesting crossover between the department's production and coursework.

Performances of “Six Scenes in a Theater” will be October 16 through 20, 2019. Advance tickets are $12 for students, and $17 day-of-show (pending availability).

For reservations and further information, contact the box office at (518) 442-3997 or


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