next generation voice
The Farm Theater spent the last three days workshopping Jan Rosenberg’s play Never Have I Ever for the College Collaboration Project. Around the table was Jan, eight very talented and generous actors, six college students and three faculty members from Birmingham-Southern College and West Chester University and myself. Everybody in the room was excellent.
Jan’s first draft of the play is in great shape. It has all of the elements of the story in place. Excellent characters and a full arc of a story. It was in great shape. The work this weekend was to learn about the world of the play was well as to explore and discovery ways in which to strengthen the story. Most of that was about clarity of stakes.
The play focuses on eating disorders and different aspects of addiction. It was impressive to watch Jan’s commitment to specifics in differentiating each characters’ relationship to illness and addiction – and making it clear that not all forms of illness are alike. It was also interesting to hear the students share the detailed ways in which vocabulary or vernacular is used today on campus along with the detailed information about social media. It’s amazing at the rate that each generation claims their own identity and behavior.
I find that the students have a deep commitment to truth about how characters their age are being presented. They want the words to feel right, the issue to be honest, and their experience with the world to ring true. That dramaturgical information is priceless. And each of their input throughout the process is what allows these plays to generate an authentic conversation on their campus.
They also have a confidence to share a feeling about how the telling of the story is hitting them. And by that I mean, structurally how it feels. As the table work conversation was being wrapped up for the third scene, Caitlin, UWC student, asked why the scenes were in that order. Her reason was that it was moving locations back and forth didn’t seem necessary. There are was also something that raised questions about time line, and something else was brought up. The next day Jan wrote the first three scenes in a different order – the story was the same. The experience was smoother.
Another student brought up the idea of how showing a video that was in the script on stage might be a trigger for some audience members. The way the video usage was written was respectful and specific. However, that shaped a conversation about what was to be shown on stage. What was needed for the story telling. How would the issue be supported by the schools counseling centers in conjunction with the production. A similar discussion inspired by another student addressed all projects and how to effectively share statistics with the audience.
Two of the BSC students around the table this weekend will be taking leadership roles in the production. Megan is going to be the first student to direct a College Collab play – and Brennan is going to design the lights. Taylor from WCU is stage managing the production of Never Have I Ever in the fall. I’m thrilled that they got to be part of the workshop and share their ideas as well as hear all of the thoughts that went around the table. Their work on the project and investment in Jan’s perspective is already happening.
This program creates a year and a half long discussion on the the theme of the play with multiple communities. This is a theme that needs to be discussed. The program strengthens a playwrights’ voice. It develops a script. It promotes collaboration. However, I am most proud of the fact that it empowers students. Or it highlights their individual powers that already exist.
Each time I begin the College Collaboration Project I am grateful for the schools’ ability to commit to a process and not a product. I am inspired by everyone’s ability to show up, do the work, and care – especially the students.
Thank you everyone for a great workshop.
Talk with you soon.