Centre students to perform original play at Edinburgh International Fringe Festival
A group of Centre students has been working hard the past few weeks to create a play that they will soon perform on an international stage.
Thirteen students will travel with Professor of Dramatic Arts Anthony Haigh from August 2-14 to perform their play, “After Orpheus,” at the Edinburgh International Fringe Festival, the world’s largest international arts festival.
“I’ve been going to the festival for years. It has 250 venues, 2500 companies and 25,000 performers,” Haigh says. “The festival is full of crazy theatre people, comedy, dance, musical theatre, everything.”
The group has been on campus for the past few weeks to write and rehearse “After Orpheus.” The play is a unique take on the Greek myth of Orpheus, who was able to charm living and even inanimate beings with his music—but could not save his wife, Eurydice, from the underworld.
The opportunity to perform at the Fringe Festival came about through an invitation from the International Collegiate Theatre Festival (ICTF) to try to create a production. Haigh has spent the past year working on logistics and fundraising.
“I spent a while trying to figure out where we’d live, what theatre we’d perform in, the criteria to create a play. It’s quite expensive, with airfare, renting a theatre, hiring a tech crew, doing publicity,” he says. “But we’ve been actively fundraising.”
To create the play, the group used the Orpheus narrative as the starting point, and began asking questions about an important excerpt: Orpheus using the magic of his music to persuade Hades to free his wife, Eurydice, from the underworld. Hades makes one condition: Orpheus can save Eurydice only if he walks in front of her and doesn’t look back until the two of them are back on Earth. However, Orpheus cannot keep his promise and looks back at his wife, causing her to return to the underworld forever.
“We wanted to explore motivations behind what happens in the narrative. We asked the question: why does Orpheus look back? Maybe he’s unsure of her,” Haigh says. “Also, perhaps Eurydice wonders: if Orpheus can create magic with music, can she truly trust that she’s in love with him?”
The group began the play-writing process by working on creating the narrative through improvisation.
“Early on, we started doing improvised scenes to get used to the idea of creating on the fly,” says Chase Gregory ’12. “We moved on to talking about themes to explore from Orpheus story, and then we created ten-minute plays based on those themes.”
“During week one, they were skill-building, creating the ensemble and working on their improvisational skills. For week two, they began improvising around the narrative and constructing text,” says Haigh. “The rest of week will be hardcore rehearsals.”
In other words, the turn-around time for creating “After Orpheus” was short.
“I’m surprised by how quickly we’ve worked. There’s been so much progress in two weeks,” says Holly Casey ’13. “We were pleasantly surprised to have a play we’re proud of. We exceeded our own expectations.”
As for the upcoming Fringe Festival, the students are excited both to perform and to see other plays—and also to see Scotland itself, as several of those going have never been abroad.
“It’ll be interesting communicating to an international community and seeing if they understand the jokes we make, our sense of humor and thought process,” says Jacob Moody ’15.
“I’m excited to see Scotland,” Casey says. “It’ll be cool to be in what is currently a center of culture—everything’s happening over there right now.”
The students agree that working together on “After Orpheus” has been a truly collaborative experience.
“Everyone’s been able to help each other. We all play to our strengths,” says Tyhgita Cespedes ’15.
“There’s definitely an ensemble feel—we support each other,” says Mariele Fluegeman ’15. “The play has a nice balance of characters so everyone has an important role.”
“After spending so much time together, we’re one big family now,” says Kaitlin Vaught ’15.
A preview performance of the play will take place at 8 p.m. on Monday, July 30 at the Actor’s Guild of Lexington. The event is open to the public, and is also considered an alumni event.
“After Orpheus” will also be performed at Centre as this year’s Family Weekend Weekend play, on Sept. 28-29.