Centre College selected to participate in dramatic arts collaboration
Centre College has been chosen as one of three institutions of higher learning to take part in the first-ever Farm Theater University Collaboration, a unique educational initiative that seeks to cultivate young talent in the dramatic arts. In partnership with The Farm Theater of Brooklyn, N.Y., Centre has joined Clark University of Worcester, Mass., and Ashland University of Ashland, Ohio, in commissioning an emerging playwright to create a play that each institution will produce independently at different times over the course of the 2014-2015 academic year.
Matthew Hallock, associate professor and chair of Centre’s dramatic arts program, expects 15 to 17 Centre students will be involved in the production, which they will rehearse during the upcoming CentreTerm and perform early next spring. The Dramatic Arts Program typically produces three main stage productions per year, such as the spring 2012 musical production of “The Mystery of Edwin Drood,” pictured above.
According to Hallock, this collaboration is a rare chance for students not only to work with a new play but also to have direct access to the playwright throughout the process.
“This kind of opportunity is nearly unheard of at the undergraduate level,” he says. “We are very excited to throw our energies into this program. This is a possible game-changer for the education we offer our students.”
In addition to being in constant contact with playwright Lindsay Joy, a University of New Hampshire graduate now writing in Brooklyn, they will also have a hand in the development of her play. After each institution performs the play, beginning with Ashland University this November, Joy will have a chance to revise it based on suggestions and ideas that emerge from each production. By the time the play is published at the end of the collaboration, it will have gone through multiple revisions and everyone who worked on it will be credited as part of its original production.
In terms of subject, Joy says the play will tackle difficult issues but with humor.
“I wanted to look at the way we find out about death in today’s world—that was a burning question for me,” she explains. “But I also wanted the play to be relevant to the students who will perform it. It centers on a group of college-age friends who have gathered back home after one of their friends commits suicide. They struggle to unpack that issue, but there’s humor in it.”
Padraic Lillis, The Farm Theater’s artistic director and a longtime friend of Hallock, believes that this collaboration offers long-term benefits for everyone involved.
“Most projects that early-career theater artists will work on are new plays, so it is important that they know how to handle them,” Lillis says. “They also need to understand that they contribute to any work, not just new work. This project emphasizes that actors don’t just play a part; their involvement directly contributes to the development of a play.”
Lillis is already familiar with Centre and its exemplary dramatic arts program. In 2001 he came to campus to direct a production of “The Glass Menagerie” and was impressed by the caliber of the College’s students and faculty.
When choosing colleges for the collaboration’s inaugural run, he knew Centre would be an ideal participant: “From my experience at Centre I knew it had a great theater program, with hardworking, committed students and passionate department leaders who are themselves serious artists.”
Patrick Kagan-Moore, Charles T. Hazelrigg professor of dramatic arts, will lead the CentreTerm class and direct the College’s production. He is looking forward to the hands-on approach of the project.
“We want our students to know their way around a text and a stage,” he says. “This provides practical experience in a new play, and acquaints them with the process that drama undergraduates often aren’t exposed to.”
In August Hallock and Kagan-Moore, along with Mariele Fluegeman ’15 and Hayley Hoffman ’16, will travel to New York for a three-day workshop of the script. It will be the first time the play is brought to life and the first chance students and faculty from Centre, Ashland and Clark will have to discuss it and begin preparations.
“This opportunity will be invaluable to our growth as a program,” says Kagan-Moore.
Auditions for the production will be held this fall.
by Caitlan Cole