Student-run DePaul Theatre Union stages creative, minimal productions

Who says you need to be an acting major to enjoy acting? The DePaul Theatre Union is a student organization which pays no mind to any such snobbery. Students of every discipline take part in DTU productions — everyone from tangential majors such as communication to the far reaches of STEM has a hand in staging each play.

Noah Simmons is a film and television major and senior at DePaul. He’s also the director of the DTU’s latest production, “Neighborhood 3: Requisition of Doom,” which centers around a popular video game that mysteriously encroaches upon an unassuming suburban neighborhood. As players approach the game’s end, the line between fiction and reality grows unclear. The production was performed three times at the Cortelyou Commons over the weekend.

“This was my first time ever directing a play, so needless to say I was very nervous going into the process,” Simmons said. “I had to learn a lot as I went, but I pulled a lot from other directors I had worked with in the past — specifically my high school theater director.”

“It’s honestly just a really unique show that diverts from what I think people expect to see in a play,” said Cassidy Delahunty, a health sciences major and president of the DTU. “It’s a play about zombies and video games, which is definitely unusual, and it also has a lot of horror elements, which isn’t something you see a lot in theater.”

Simmons said that a production of “Neighborhood 3” was unanimously agreed upon, as the play’s minimalist nature would be best suited to DTU’s resources. “We have a cast of just five people, a production team of four and a crew of four,” Simmons said. “Each of the actors play multiple roles, and there was a lot of character work done to help each actor differentiate their characters.”

“I’ve never had to play three different characters in one play,” said Sophia Klevit, a communications and media major and “Neighborhood 3” cast member. “It was unique as an actress to have to switch characters in moments. I’ve never had to do that before. I loved it though — it was so challenging.”

“I think people will enjoy the darker themes [of the play],” said Catalina Reyes, a health sciences major and “Neighborhood 3” cast member. “It’s more like multiple mini-plays within a play that all connect. While this show has been [staged at DePaul] before, I think we definitely bring a new and fun spin on it.”

“This play is all student-run, it’s contemporary, it’s low budget but well put-together — all homemade music and graphics,” Klevit said. Additionally, every DTU performance is free for all to attend. “We do encourage people to make donations at the front-of-house, but that’s the only money that gets put back into the organization,” Simmons said. “I like to call our process ‘low budget, high effort.’”

With minimal resources, DTU members hope it’s the fiery passion behind each production that will keep audiences coming back. “When people think DePaul theater, I think that they think of the Theatre School, which is very different from the kind of shows we put on,” Delahunty said. “We don’t have the budget or resources that the Theatre School has, so I think our productions make up for that with a lot of creativity and a lot of enthusiasm from everyone involved.”

“DTU is all about making theater accessible, no matter what that means to you,” Delahunty continued. “We get a lot of emails from people asking whether or not they can participate in our shows without being a theater major, and the answer is: Absolutely. Most of us aren’t theater majors — I’m studying biology and health sciences, which is probably about as far away as you can get from studying theater. You don’t need experience, you don’t need a portfolio and you don’t need to have any special skills. As long as you love theater — or you want to learn — we’d love to have you!”

Auditions for the DTU’s spring musical, “Next to Normal,” begin this week.