Centre senior and playwright Caili Harris brings her vision to the professional stage
An original play by Centre student Caili Harris took center stage at the Southeast Theatre Conference Fringe Festival in Lexington, Kentucky after being chosen from a national pool of entries submitted by both college/university and professional theatre companies.
Harris, class of 2023, wrote the script for “Spilled Pop and the Dimensions of a Happy Place,” which was produced by Centre’s own student theatre company, Centre Players.
“This is a student presenting work in a professional venue at one of the largest conferences in our field,” said Jennifer Goff, associate professor of theatre, who noted the students’ achievement and the educational value of this prestigious production opportunity.
“This was an exciting piece of student-driven artistic practice, executing skills gained through classwork on campus as well as study abroad,” she said.
The Fringe Festival welcomes a variety of performances ranging from one-person shows to more experimental theatre. All performances at the 2023 festival were held at the Lexington Children’s Theatre and were open to the public.
“A juried committee looked over our application, and we had the honor of being chosen,” Harris said. “We were only able to do the second act of the play due to the one-hour time restriction, however that provided an opportunity to go in-depth with this part of the script. We really got to dig into the characters, storytelling and the world of the piece.”
Harris adds that the inspiration for this play first began in Goff’s women in comedy course.
“I had an idea for a scene I wanted to write, and it ended up being my final project — and the first scene of my play,” she said.
Then, during Harris’ sophomore year, Centre moved to remote learning due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I was thinking a lot about how, when we can’t go outside, a lot of the traveling happens in our own minds,” Harris said. “I thought of happy places, dissociation, dreams and daydreaming. At some point the question came up, ‘What if these were physical spaces? What if we could walk into our dreams?’ That became the main objective for Vigdis (V), one of the main characters, and a big theme/question that this play interacted with.”
“Spilled Pop and the Dimensions of a Happy Place” is the story of Eloise, or El, and her wife, V. El works at a nursing home and is the ultimate “mom friend.” V is a philosophy professor who is trying to create an escape space out of our own dreams and happy places. However, when V unlocks this escape space, she gets sucked in and trapped in her own memories. Carol and Lilith, students at the university where V works, witness this event and commit themselves to helping El bring her wife back.
“This is a story about love and loss, and ultimately when it's time to let go,” Harris said.
Harris, a French and theatre double major, participated in Centre’s study abroad program at Rose Bruford College, one of London’s leading drama schools, with cast member Hannah Nye and lighting designer Fletcher Meriwether, both class of 2023. They are part of the larger team that worked with Harris to produce this project.
“I’m so thankful for Centre Players and Theatre at Centre for backing me on this project and providing us with the resources to make this possible,” she said. “I’d also like to thank all of our recommenders for their kind words that led us to the Fringe Festival.
“This play was entirely designed, directed, and performed by students,” she continues. “I could not have done any of this without my co-director Katie Bonney [class of 2023]. Katie is such a wonderful director with a truly creative mind.”
Harris plans to take a gap year before applying to doctorate programs in theatre studies.
“I want to take this year to read, watch and take part in a lot of awesome theatre work,” Harris said. “My goal is to really focus on growing in my knowledge as a theatre artist in order to prepare myself for graduate school and the theatre industry in general.”
“Spilled Pop and the Dimensions of a Happy Place”
El …………………... Olive Weeks, class of 2025
V ……….................. Maia Sudbrock, class of 2024
Lily ………………… Hannah Nye, class of 2023
Carol ……………… Skylar Hensley, class of 2026
Mike/Dad ………… Arthur Ray, class of 2023
Costume Designer …………... Elizabeth Bowling, class of 2023
Lighting Designer ……………. Fletcher Meriwether, class of 2023
Property Designer …………… Lauren Dome, class of 2024
Sound Designer ……………… Tess Shalash, class of 2025
Directors ……………………… Katie Bonney, class of 2023 and Caili Harris, class of 2023