[BLOG] DramaCentre takes the New York stage for theater collaboration project

Posted by Centre News in Drama, News 04 Sep 2014

This is the first in a series of blog posts by Hayley Hoffman ’16 (pictured above, center of back row), a student participating in Centre College’s collaboration with The Farm Theater in Brooklyn, N.Y. Centre is one of three institutions selected to participate in the College Collaboration Project, a unique educational initiative that seeks to cultivate young talent in the dramatic arts and commissions an emerging playwright to create a play that each institution will produce independently throughout the 2014-2015 academic year. Centre students will perform the new play “In the Event of My Death” on campus in February.

The Farm Theatre />In one of Centre’s unique experiential learning opportunities, I took a whirlwind trip to New York City to work with The Farm Theater in their College Collaboration Project. As part of the project, Centre’s dramatic arts program, along with programs at two other universities, commissioned an up-and-coming playwright to write a play each school could perform throughout the next academic year. I, along with Mariele Fluegeman ’15, traveled to the city to workshop the script prior to its first public reading.

Our rehearsal space for the weekend was the Black Box at 440 Studios, just across the street from the iconic Public Theater. Once our cast of professional actors arrived, we began to read through the script from commissioned playwright Lindsay Joy, titled In the Event of My Death, which tells the story of eight friends who have gathered to honor their dead friend, Freddy. Mariele read the stage directions as I took photos and documented the occasion on DramaCentre’s Facebook page and Twitter account. The actors fell right into their roles and no less than an hour later, we had our first conversation about changes we thought should be made.

The initial discussions, led by the Farm’s artistic director Padraic Lillis, were largely concerned with character motivation—the previous actions we may or may not have seen that influence what a character says or does at a particular moment. The cast asked great questions about everything from what had happened in the hours prior to the opening scene to why particular stage props were selected. As a non-actor, it amazed me how much thought is put into every vocal inflection and every move that is made; to make a play come alive, actors have to read between the lines and, in our case, ask questions of the playwright and director.

The next day, Lindsay showed up with 72 reworked pages for us to read and discuss. The secret fueling the entire show was now revealed 40 pages earlier, giving the already complex characters even more depth. Listening to our discussions the day before had helped Lindsay determine what was and wasn’t working in the script and led to a series of edits—a process she’ll continue throughout the upcoming productions of the play.

Sunday came, and with it, our first public reading in front of a crowd of sixteen. The audience loved the play—they laughed at all of the jokes and were visibly moved by the characters. At the end of the reading, we all came to the same conclusion: Lindsay has come up with some great stuff, and we can’t wait to see where the next year will take this play.

Through opportunities like the College Collaboration Project, my time at Centre has allowed me to explore my passion for writing and theatre in ways that constantly amaze me. Centre students will perform In the Event of My Death in February after rehearsing it during the CentreTerm class “The Company.” I can’t wait to see how our campus reacts to this timely, darkly humorous and so well written material.

by Hayley Hoffman ’16

Learn more about Centre’s Dramatic Arts Program and The Farm Theater.

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