North Carolina School of the Arts with Logo
School of Design and Production School of Drama School of Filmmaking School of Music Visual Arts Academic Programs Student Life School of Drama Home apply search NCSA Home
Quick Links Navigation
 Featured Performance


The Performance Process


TRACERS, conceived by John Di Fusco

Within the cradling arms of the theatre seven Vietnam veterans felt safe to piece together their experience of the Vietnam war before, during and after. Their building blocks were their dreams, fears and the brutal realities of war. After nearly seven months of exploration these seven men emerged with a play, Tracers.

Tracers is an uncensored extraction of the lives of combatants, of their reality of war; the guilt, consciousness, bravery, comradery, and pure love experienced by the men fighting.

In the Fall of 2010 Robert Francesconi led nine young men from UNCSA’s third and fourth year classes through an unforgettably personal rehearsal process towards the production of Tracers. Each of the nine actors were, had they been living during the war, of draft age. From this point of view the cast began to dive in. Beginning at the table the actors brought in personal anecdotes, experiences, questions, pictures, guitars and any number of connections to the text. The table very quickly became a giant “melting pot” in which anyone in the room could throw ingredients. The resulting “soup” produced more than forty-five minutes of live music which became both underscoring and transitions in the production. It was here at the table that the real work began. Spending day after day working with each other, the nine actors slowly transformed from eager acting students to a company of men preparing for war. Coupling hours of reading and discussion with nonverbal physical improvisations, a platoon was formed.

Work on Tracers was a collaborative effort; everyone in the room attempting to discover the play by mining deeper and deeper into the text to find a nugget of golden truth buried inside the play’s hard-hitting dialogue. As the text began to come to life the play became larger than anyone in the room, and the cast began to understand what the writers (the veterans) needed to express: War is Hell.

"Dedicated to the 59,000 who missed the Freedom Bird."

by Thomas Rowell, Directing major, Class of 2012, Assistant Director of Tracers



In a bedroom in Knoxville in the present day, five bridesmaids retreat from a wedding reception and discover each other and themselves. Wearing identical dresses, these unforgettable women learn that while they each share much in common, each is also unique and irreplaceable.

Alan Ball’s contemporary comedy Five Women Wearing the Same Dress is a play that demands a production with imagination and heart. In January 2011, director Matt Bulluck and six actors from the junior and senior classes began a five-week rehearsal process that opened the doors to this surprising and daring work.

Work began around the table reading the play and getting to know the characters. Trisha is the bride’s friend with the bad reputation, Mindy the groom’s lesbian sister. Georgeanne, the bride’s former friend, drinks her life away. Frances is a naïve, religious cousin of the bride. Meredith, the bride’s sister, masks her damaged center with anger and drugs. Tripp, the only man in the play, has come for Trisha. These are fascinating characters, beautifully written.

At the table the actors shared stories of their own lives and romances. Some funny, some sad, all true. As they began to open up to each other, the play began to open up as well. Relationships began to develop between the characters. The play began to take shape at the table. That shape grew when the actors began to get up on their feet in the space. It continued as they played on the set.

However, as the title implies, this is a play about a dress. When the right bridesmaids dress was found, how this play began to take off. Wearing these loud clothes, relationships grew, the work deepened, and a simple little comedy became a truly moving work of art.

by Matt Bulluck, UNCSA School of Drama Faculty Member, and Director of Five Women Wearing the Same Dress