New director brings laughs to West Hall

Jeremiah Kirstein isn’t your average director.

Despite his age, the sophomore is the newest director for the 14th Grade Players – the director pool is highly dominated by juniors and seniors.

“I was really lucky because as a sophomore I have a chance to direct, which is not always the case,” Kirstein said.

Kirstein chose “Laughter on the 23rd Floor” because of author Neil Simon’s humor and a desire to break away from the typical Shakespearean comedy.

“It wasn’t about couples. It was just about people working and being together and hanging out and a lot of the lines and the back-and-forth reminded me of what I would say or my friends would say,” Kirstein said. “Everyone laughs just because it’s so funny for the sheer fact that you could see yourself or one of your friends behaving the exact way they’re behaving onstage.”

“Laughter on the 23rd Floor” is a throwback to the writers’ rooms of the ’50s – an older, more mature version of “30 Rock.” Kirstein said it’s based on Neil Simon’s experiences writing for Sid Caesar’s “Your Show of Shows,” and while “Laughter” only has a few lines about the characters actually writing something, the majority of the play they are cracking jokes and “being complete idiots.”

“If you’ve ever seen ‘Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip’ or ’30 Rock,’ it’s a lot like that,” sophomore John Wittrock, the assistant technical director and lighting designer, said. “I think it’s a good portrayal at least onstage of a writer’s room and I’ve been blown away by what I’ve seen so far.”

Having held auditions and cast the performance at the end of January, Kirstein has held rehearsals in Phillips Hall and Ivory Tower over the past few weeks. Kirstein finally was able to move the production into West Hall Theater Sunday for the Thursday opening.

“It’s been a lot of work… I think the set looks really good,” freshman Katie Landry, the stage manager, said. “The actors have been putting so much work into it and every run it just gets funnier and funnier.”

While the group hasn’t come up against too many issues during the production of the performance, 14th’s technical director Lianna DeBor noted there was one flaw with the new space – the floor is too reflective.

“The floor is so reflective that the lights do all sorts of crazy things,” DeBor, a sophomore, said. “We’re used to the downstage.”

Despite the small hiccup, DeBor says that working with Kirstein has been great.

“Some directors think they know a lot about tech and really they don’t, and other directors don’t know anything and he kind of like knows enough to get by and have a conversation with me,” DeBor said. “He knows what he’s talking about.”

Kirstein has proven that despite not being the typical director, he has what it takes to put together a comedic performance. Kirstein said that after the performance he plans on going back to being an actor, but will consider directing again. For now, the performance is still cracking him up.

“It’s a really horrible joke, but I say this just as a tagline: ‘Laughter on the 23rd floor, it’s funny on many different levels,’ ” Kirstein said.

“Laughter on the 23rd Floor” opens Thursday in West Hall Theater and plays through Saturday.

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