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Ohio State Theatre’s Lab Series breaks norm with special event

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Nathan Sims is set to direct "Doctor Faustus" as part of the Department of Theatre Lab Series on Nov. 21 and 22. Credit: Courtesy of Nathan Sims

Nathan Sims is set to direct “Doctor Faustus” as part of the Department of Theatre Lab Series on Nov. 21 and 22. Credit: Courtesy of Nathan Sims

The Ohio State Department of Theatre’s Lab Series offers students a chance to present their original works. On Nov. 21 and 22, the Lab is giving that opportunity to a non-student with a special performance.

“Doctor Faustus,” originally written by OSU graduate Don Nigro, will be directed by staff member Nathan Sims. Sims is the facility manager for The Drake Performance and Event Center.

Sims has a background in theater, with an MFA in theater performance from Western Illinois University. Sims said he wanted to direct again and saw the Lab Series as an opportunity to work with students.

“Lab Series sort of strips away all of the other elements of theater,” Sims said. “The lighting isn’t important, the props aren’t important. What’s important is the actors, what’s important is their connection with each other. It focuses on the core story and the core experience with the actors and the audience.”

The show is an adaptation the German legend of “Faust,” in which a dissatisfied man sells his soul to the devil in exchange for unlimited knowledge. This version has a twist on the traditional tale. Now, the devil conjured is female and the story is about the relationship between men and women.

“They play a lot of games with each other,” Sims said. “It’s about exploring the choices we make and the sort of hell we put each other through and the mistakes we make in relationships.”

Sims had long been a fan of Nigro’s work, and directed his plays a few times in the past.

He said he originally was not aware of Nigro’s connection to the university, but that it added to the production.  

“He acted in these theaters, directed in these theaters,” Sims said. “He’s got a long history with OSU and (The Drake), and I think that’s the icing on the cake.”   

Working with someone who is not a student was a different experience for Zachary Bailey, production manager for the lab series.

“It’s been a really easy process working with him,” said Bailey, a fifth-year in theater. “He is sort of a veteran in directing, he just knows what to be on top of. We were ecstatic to work with him.”

Featuring an employee rather than students is out of the norm for the program, which makes “Doctor Faustus” a special event rather than part of the Lab’s regular season.

“We pride ourselves on being student-driven, opposed to faculty-work or staff-work,” Bailey said., “But when Nathan came to us, we had a chance for a new collaboration. It was a win-win for everyone.”

Sims said the collaboration with students has been a great experience.

“Since the lab series is student-run, it’s not just working with student actors,” Sims said. “It’s working with student producers, student house managers, student technical. So that’s been a really exciting, fun experience to see them take the reins and to run the show.”

“Doctor Faustus” will be performed at 7 p.m. on Monday, Nov. 21 and Tuesday, Nov. 22 in the New Works Lab in The Drake Performance and Event Center. Doors open at 6 p.m. the night of, and seats are first come, first serve. Admission is free.

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