Theatre at Ƶ: Interview with Ted Fussell, director of the Ƶ Arts Week Play

Ted Fussell

Ted Fussell, our second-year Mathematics and Philosophy student, will be directing the Ƶ Arts Week Play which takes place every Trinity Term. He tells us more about the play he's chosen, how students can get involved with theatre at Ƶ, and his background of working in theatre.

What can you tell us about the Ƶ Arts Week Play?

The Ƶ Arts Week Play will be taking place in third week of Trinity term, as part of a wider series of college arts events, and this year is All in the Timing by American playwright David Ives. The play is a series of six comedic one-acts, each dealing in some way with time, language, and absurdity. The play's characters find themselves in a wide variety of impossible situations, such as a meeting in a café that descends into an inane grammar lesson, or a science experiment where they're locked in a room and forced to recreate Hamlet. The characters must come to terms with the strange worlds in which they live and discover how to make do in the face of absurdity.

What is Ƶ Arts Week and what is your role in Trinity term play?

Ƶ Arts Week is an annual celebration of art and culture amongst Ƶ students that takes place every year early in Trinity term. Centred around the launch of the annual Ƶ Literary Anthology, it also features live music events, opportunities to learn new art skills, and the arts week play. I'm acting as the director of the Arts Week Play this term, organising the production and helping the actors put it together.

How can students get involved in drama and theatre at Ƶ?

In addition to the Arts Week Play, which features an all-star cast and crew of Ƶ students, college members can also get involved in the annual Ƶ Greek Play. An institution going back many years previously under the purview of tutor David Raeburn, it is now managed by students, and gives members of the college the opportunity to get involved in a much older and more traditional form of drama.

Have you always been involved in theatre?

I've been involved in theatre since secondary school, though initially as an actor as opposed to working backstage. I made my acting debut in a year 7 production of Jason and the Argonauts, and only transitioned to working backstage in years 12 and 13. Now I work almost entirely behind the scenes and am now making my first foray into directing at Oxford.

What would your dream show to direct?

As a maths and philosophy student, Tom Stoppard's Arcadia would be a dream play to direct. Set in a country house in the split times of 1809 and the 1990s, it deals with such varied themes as order and chaos, past and present, thermodynamics, chaos theory and even Romantic gardening. There are so many interesting things to explore in the text, and it does all this while remaining very accessible and incredibly funny.

Can you tell me about a time when an artist has inspired the way you approach theatre?

Composer/lyricist Steven Sondheim had three rules for writing his lyrics, which I think apply equally well to all aspects of theatre, and have very much informed how I approach shows. They are "Content Dictates Form", "Less Is More" and "God Is in the Details", which Sondheim goes on to say is "all in the service of Clarity, without which nothing else matters". Remembering these rules ensures you keep whatever aspect of a show you're working on tight and focused, without anything extra that would detract from what you're trying to say. It also helps every aspect of a production come together cohesively into a single larger whole, which I think is one of the most important things to strive for when putting on a play.