School of Drama premieres student-written work
The School of Drama premiered an original, student-written play on Wednesday. The Last Page: A Nuclear Folktale, written and directed by senior directing major Samuel French, tells the story of the pursuit of the American dream in a post-apocalyptic world.
Junior acting major David Patterson played Soldier — circa the Revolutionary War — who, when in search of water, meets Little Girl, played by junior musical theatre major Alexis Floyd, looking for her mother. The two become friends when Little Girl shows Soldier that her veins are filled with water because her heart is a storm cloud. In their search for her mother, they come across Fox, played by junior acting major Mitchell Edwards, and Crow, played by junior acting major Olivia Brown, who are in search of water. Fox and Crow steal the little girl’s heart while she sleeps.
Meanwhile, two destructive boy gods, Plutonium, played by junior musical theatre major Phillippe Arroyo, and Uranium, played by junior acting major Jeremy Hois, steal the crown of a riddle-solving Statue, who is also played by Brown. Without the crown, Little Girl can’t solve the riddle that would start the earth spinning again after the apocalypse, so Soldier and Little Girl go looking for it.
After the show, the cast and crew sat down with audience members for a talkback to get viewers’ reactions to the play and explain some of the behind-the-scenes processes of making the play.
“It’s a very Americana play,” French said. “As we discussed this idea more and more, we realized that American ideas are actually a gateway to global ideas. How the Fox and the Crow interact with the American dream is the idea of ‘go out and grab what you want for yourself’ and ‘do whatever it takes to survive’ mentality, and how the Little Girl and the Soldier interact with the American dream juxtaposes that.”
The scenery was meant to reflect the idea of the American dream. Sections of chipped white picket fences were the only scenery on the stage. The black floor also had flecks of colors on it meant to make it resemble a galaxy. “I was trying to find some symbol of Americana, so we used the white picket fence, and the floor was meant to reflect the cosmic relativity of the play,” said junior scenic design major and the play’s scenic designer Pia Marchetti. “But when I saw the lighting, that’s when I started to see everything come together. It gave the feel of an abyss or a haze.”
The lighting significantly added to the tone of the play, and changes in the lighting helped the audience to recognize breaks in the story and movement through scenes. A smoky haze filled the theater when the audience first arrived, adding a mysterious aura before
the play started. “I was hesitant when I first read the
script because one scene took place in the stars; the next was in the desert,” said junior lighting design major and the play’s lighting designer Rane Renshaw. “The set allowed me to create room and have you float at times, be dehydrated at times, be in a kingdom at times. Behind you extended forever, which added to that idea of infinite time, infinite space. When they were wandering through the desert, the lighting felt dehydrated, and gave me the opportunity to emphasize that, and allow you to connect the dots.”
In addition to the aesthetic features of the play, the actors brought the otherwise confusing story to life. Especially delightful was Floyd’s portrayal of Little Girl. Comical at times, tear-jerking at others, and always vibrant, Floyd’s animated performance was captivating and was sure to make each member of the audience invested in her journey to find her heart, her mother, and Statue’s crown.
“When I first read it, I actually didn’t immediately get the sense of the American dream,” Floyd said. “What resonated with me were the characters. As we started to work on the play, I realized the Girl represented being attached to the American dream and to have the resources to go after what you want. She has faith in her that anything is possible.”
During the talkback session, some audience members expressed that they thought of Little Girl as a representation of an angel. “I have personal feelings
about this, but at times she is an angel, whatever that means,” French said. “Her costume changed how I started to think of Little Girl. Eunjin Lee came to me with the idea of her costume looking like a quilt. It’s something that is handed down from generation to generation. What she could be and what she was is something I’m not going to disclose.” Lee is the show’s costume designer and is pursuing a masters in costume design.
While Little Girl seemed to be a very universal character whose time period would be difficult to pinpoint, Soldier belonged to a very definite time period — the Revolutionary War. French said he chose to make him a soldier from that particular war because, “That was the start of America, when the American ideals originated that have been twisted, distorted, changed. That was when the ideal was most powerful. I chose a Revolutionary War soldier because he was a soldier that started there and saw how the country changed.”
Though the story was certainly creative and engaging, it was also very confusing at times. Because the characters were from such different worlds, time periods, and levels of believability, the story was often difficult to follow. The actors and lighting definitely helped, but did not eliminate all confusion. Overall, the play was an intriguing story and a unique experience.