DramaCentre’s In the Event of My Death, a new play written exclusively for Centre College, will premiere on the Weisiger Stage Feb. 13-14. Directed by Patrick Kagan-Moore, Charles T. Hazelrigg Professor of Dramatic Arts, the play is a culmination of Centre’s participation in a selective theatre collaboration project that ended with three weeks of intense study and rehearsals during a CentreTerm course titled “The Company.”
The opportunity to work on this play came about as part of the College’s work with The Farm Theater in New York City, which seeks to cultivate young talent in the dramatic arts. As part of the College Collaboration Project, three institutions—Centre College, Ashland University of Ohio and Clark University of Massachusetts—commissioned an emerging playwright to create a play for each school to produce independently throughout the academic year.
In the Event of My Death follows eight friends in their mid-20s who gather for the first time in years following the funeral of a high school classmate. Centre’s cast, the second to perform the play, rehearsed during CentreTerm and met six days a week to work through the material.
“We usually rehearsed 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., took an hour for lunch, and continued 1:30 to 4:30 p.m. We’re looking at five and a half hours a day,” Kagan-Moore says. “As a class, it’s a heavy workload, but this is what it takes for this population to be excellent, and we want to be excellent.”
The process of perfecting the production, however, hasn’t come without unique challenges.
“This cast received a seriously reworked Act Two about halfway through the class. Everything changed,” he explains.
As part of the collaboration, playwright Lindsay Joy visited the the cast and crew during their rehearsals to receive feedback on the script, and ultimately revised the text based on their ideas and suggestions.
Though an evolving script certainly made extra demands on the cast, everyone agreed it was well worth it to be able to have a hand in the play’s development and to work so closely with the playwright. Cassandra Chambers ’16, who plays Meg, says she enjoyed spending a weekend working with someone as talented as Joy.
“I’m so glad that [Joy] came down to visit with us for a few days. I really feel like our feedback made a difference in the show and will be apparent in the final product,” she says.
Kagan-Moore believes that all audiences, especially Centre students, will connect with the play.
“One of the reasons that I like this play is that these characters seem a lot like my students. They’re looking for a way and a place to live, and where they’re going to go and what’s going to happen to them. That’s my students,” he explains.
“The play is an exploration of a bunch of young people who have come together to address their own core issues and to communicate with one another around the loss of one of their friends,” he continues. “But there’s a real energy and drive toward finding health and a successful life that comes off these characters. The action of this play is to wake up. That’s a lot of what happens to the characters in this play—they wake to their own needs and hopes and aspirations.”
Chambers echoed this sentiment and hopes that students will find the play “incredibly refreshing.”
“It’s totally our generation. We all know people like these characters,” she says. “It’s funny and heartbreaking and very dramatic—it will definitely be entertaining.”
In the Event of My Death will run Feb. 13-14 at the Norton Center for the Arts’ Weisiger Theatre. Performances begin at 8 p.m. each night and will be followed by a “talk-back” with the playwright, cast and production crew. For ticket purchasing information, call 859.238.5424.