April 12, 2022

First Person Shooter, a difficult and complex look at emotional abuse, bullying, and the tragedy of being an outcast, will be presented at Mayville State University April 21, 22, and 23 at 7:30 p.m. in the Old Main Theatre. Performances are free and open to the public. Warning: sensitive content relating to emotional abuse, bullying, and school shootings.

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April 22, 2022

Janell Marmon • Traill County Tribune

Between 2013 when Don Zolidis’ play “First Person Shooter” was first produced and February 14, 2018, when the event in Parkland, Florida occurred, 63 incidents had occurred. Six adults and 35 children had been killed. In each the common bond was the shooter. In the historic theatre at Mayville State University’s Old Main, audiences will get a chance to examine the playwright and actor’s telling of that perspective when Zolidis’ play takes center stage, April 21-23 with junior Phillip Maritato directing.

“As a senior in high school,” director Maritato said, “I was playing Tad, and then the pandemic hit.”

“First Person Shooter” was Maritato’s show that he was on his way to state to perform as a member of the Devil’s Lake High School cast in 2020. Like many things, COVID 19 cancelled North Dakota State One-Act competition. It didn’t dull Phillip’s interest in the play or the complex characters and topics that he found in learning the script and characters. MSU gave him a chance to bring it full circle.

Dominic Ott plays Tad in the MSU production.

“He had it down,” Maritato said of his classmate’s interpretation of the lead character. “He was a better Tad than I would have ever gotten to.” The play focuses on the impact of bullying and abuse in America.

One of the things that Maritato has been able to get accustomed to with his directorial debut is casting. With a cast of 15, the challenge was to select actors who had the talent to carry off the complex themes with maturity and the ability to distance themselves once off stage.

“Charlie, the shooter, is played by Rebecca Sauvageau. I had seen that she’s great at comedy. During auditions and through rehearsals, she’s done well. She can reach it,” Maritato said of her ability to play the emotionally charged character. “The emotion she has – in voice, movement, and pacing – are very well done. It’s been a heavy load on her shoulders.”

Maritato spoke about the importance of ending rehearsals in a play as intense as this one with an outlet. Cast has been doing improvisation at the end of rehearsals. “We need laughter. It helps us make sure they don’t bring the intensity of the show home with them.” They’ve also had the expertise of MSU counselors and Assistant Professor Robert Sylskar, who’ve supported the cast and director throughout the process.

“Professor Sylskar is my director,” Maritato said, crediting MSU’s theatre professor with giving him the opportunity, offering tips and meeting with him weekly to discuss the progress, advising him through-out the process. On a Friday afternoon 12 days before opening night, Sylskar was supporting his students by lending a hand painting with the newly recruited tech crew.

“Last fall after we closed “Insane with Power” which Sylskar directed, I asked if there was a chance that I could direct,” Maritato noted. That lead him to register for a special topics class called “Directing.”

Maritato majors in English education with a minor in Communications at MSU. He plans to teach English at high school level and advise theatre, yearbook, and newspaper. He’s currently spending a semester at Central Valley High School in his field experience.

“I’ve learned so much,” he said, crediting Julia Berge at Central Valley and Robert Sylskar with helping him learn and gain confidence in his fields of study.