“It is not everyday that a 23-year-old gets to co-produce and direct a full-length two act politically-infused allegorical play,” recent St. Olaf graduate Denzel Belin ’15 said.
But earlier this fall, Belin got to do just that when the Phoenix Theater in Minneapolis played host to a run of John Patrick Shanley’s “Dirty Story” from Sept. 4 to Sept. 11.
The play tells the story of an awkward meeting and later a dispute over space in an apartment as an increasingly thinly-veiled allegory for the Israel/Palestine conflict.
This particular production was supported by a program called the Arts Nest’s Fledgling Program.
“I learned about the Fledgling Program that helped me produce the show through my connection with a member of the Mixed Blood [Theater] staff,” Belin said. “I connected with this staff member because of the connection I established with Jack Reuler [Mixed Blood’s artistic director] through a visit he made to campus … I skipped two classes and attended two other classes to get the most out of his visit.”
During his time at St. Olaf, Belin was very active in the student-produced theater scene. He directed “Extremeties” with Deep End Productions, “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee” for the Lyric Theater and the original musical “Serving” for his senior capstone project. He also acted as an advisor and mentor to the founders of the Myswyken Salad Theatre Company during his senior year.
Belin cited the experience he gained in his four years at the college as an important factor in landing the show.
“When I applied and they interviewed me, I utilized techniques I learned from my time at Olaf applying for shows for Deep End projects and the senior directing slot. They told me that they were impressed with the level of detail and planning I brought to the application, and personally having that blueprint made the process much easier in the long run,” Belin said. “I was also able to do one of my favorite things: pay all of the artists that worked on the show.”
Belin’s crew included fellow Oles dramaturg Adam Levonian ’14 and lighting designer Ben Harvey ’14. He now plans to continue onto future projects, such as improv festivals, as well as writing and performing in Brave New Workshop’s popular holiday show.
“If I had to give a piece of advice to those who are looking to pursue any type of performing arts, it would be that the time to explore is now. St. Olaf allowed me to try so many things and figure out my voice,” he said. Belin can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.