Artist of the Week: Hunter Stilwell
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Hunter Stilwell is a theatre major who just finished his senior production “No Exit,” by Jean Paul Sarte, a play that follows three characters that find themselves stuck in Hell. Satire and tragedy are wonderfully blended in this story, a concoction that Stilwell enjoys bringing forth in many of his productions. Stilwell grew up in North Carolina, but he came to Westmont to experience a different pace of life.
With experience working in theatre during high school, Stilwell came to Westmont with the intention of pursuing a theatre major. “One of the things I love about the Westmont program is that you get to interact with every aspect of theatre. Light, acting, directing . . . that exposure is really important,” expressed Stilwell. In addition, he really enjoys the Fringe Festival that Westmont puts on every year. It’s a great way to get involved in theatre and learn how to direct within the context of shorter productions.
Stilwell has directed two plays in the Fringe Festival, both of which are originally written by Westmont alumnus Micah Anthony. The first one was called “Camera Scarabea,” a conversational piece about finding meaning through life’s uncertainties. The second one, “Slaughterhouse Rules,” works with intertwining themes of tragedy and comedy. It follows the story of five animals in a slaughterhouse who have to follow certain rules they make for themselves—they can’t talk about animals that have died in the past. “Directing that piece was interesting in the sense that I got to work with the ideas of confinement. I set up benches so that as the piece progressed the benches got closer, giving it a claustrophobic feel. Those two pieces gave me the base structures that I was able use for my senior project,” remarks Stilwell.
Part of his success as a director is due to the experience he has working in other roles in the theatre such as lighting and acting. “Being a lighting designer first has helped me figure out those relationships from both ends,” Stilwell explains. Having that background gave him the tools needed to pull off “No Exit,” his first full-length production. Working on a show that ran for an hour-and-a-half had a lot more technicalities than the Fringe productions, which only run for about ten to fifteen minutes. The production consisted of a technical team, lighting designer, sound designer, costume designer, prop master, a stage manager, and an assistant stage manager. Stilwell’s favorite thing about directing was seeing everyone come together with their specific talents to pull off a piece of art for others to enjoy. “You get to oversee this sort of communal gathering, working towards this singular purpose, and everyone brings something to the table,” he adds.
Stilwell voiced that the end of a show is always a little bittersweet because of the memories made and challenges overcome, but once it’s over, everyone moves on to the next thing. Looking forward, Hunter Stilwell plans to stay involved in theatre after graduation.