Again this year, Centre College’s Dramatic Arts Program is in its beginning stages with The Farm Theater College Collaborating Program as they prepare for its newest play that will be featured in the coming fall.
The Farm Theater program commissions emerging playwrights to pen plays about pressing social issues and collaborates with participating schools, giving students the opportunity to work on new plays. Centre has been a part of the program since 2014.
Professor of Dramatic Arts Matthew Hallock said they are currently in the “quiet phase” in the 18-month process—everyone except for the playwright. The Farm Theater selected Kimberly Belflower as the playwright for this season.
The College will be “co-commissioners” with Rollins College and Furman University for the next project, and Centre will be the first school to perform the play in the fall. The production will be directed by Assistant Professor of Dramatic Arts Jennifer Goff.
Over the last few weeks, Belflower has held video conference interviews with groups of students from each school and has given out surveys to students.
“All the questions in the interview and survey are mostly related to the #MeToo movement and this new landscape that we, as a culture and a society, are finding ourselves in,” Hallock said. “We are really excited that this is the topic, that it’s something connected to the #MeToo experience that we’re all going through right now. The relevance is incredibly valuable to us.
“We—in our department—like to be involved with big conversations,” he continued. “We don’t need to be the catalyst, but we would like to be able to contribute, in a productive way, to the dialogue. That’s something the arts have always been really good at—seems like a safer environment sometimes to have riskier conversations.”
Hallock said he is excited about the discussions and debates that will come out of this play, and he hopes this will push everyone’s thinking on the topic.
In August, once Belflower has completed writing the play, a number of Centre students will be selected to go to New York for a “table read.” During this three-day workshop, the play is read out loud for the first time by professional actors and is evaluated, discussed and edited by the playwright, actors and representatives from the schools, as well as Padraic Lillis, the artistic director of The Farm Theater.
“It’s just a blast to sit down and talk about somebody’s writing,” Hallock added.
In order to get everything put together for the fall production in November, Hallock said auditions will be held right at the start of the fall semester.
Once the rehearsals begin, Belflower will visit to see what the play looks and sounds like, while making any necessary changes. Belflower and Lillis will come in during the performance and will continue to revise it from there.
“The script we see at the end of the year next year may have very little to do with the one we produced,” he said.
Hallock continued saying The Farm Theater project is a great opportunity for students for several reasons, including the fact it shows them that the production is a continual work in progress.
“Everything they’re doing is about moving something through a process and that means changes, edits, alteration and lots of great big risky mistakes and that, in an end result, is wildly different than the first thing you would’ve seen, even if the first thing seemed really cool,” he added.
Centre students will have the opportunity to go to New York the summer of 2019 to reprise their roles in the play, where they have a final reading of the piece and a celebration of its completion.
“It’s all about us working to help a playwright make a play everything it can be,” Hallock concluded.
by Kerry Steinhofer
February 23, 2018