A play unlike any other performed at Gustavus, Origin Story brings the genre of graphic novel to the stage in a production by students and Director Cory Hinkle.
The play is an interpretation of Dan LeFranc’s 2010 play and largely remains similar to the original.
Many of the lines are taken from the comic panels of the play and reads directly as a comic. Stage Manager and Theater Major Connie Boatwright says,
“The script is like a comic. There is a lot of physicality, drama and intensity in the play. It is hard to do a graphic novel on stage. It’s really different and requires a lot of high energy.”
The play begins in Nowheresville, fictional town in the Midwest. The lead character, played by First-year Theater Major Annie Galloway, is a mysterious character who is intersexed, someone with characteristics of both female and male.
Named Pronoun, and referred to by other characters as, “they” or “them”, Pronoun is meant to be relatable to many teenagers today who have had a difficult life, have been bullied or neglected by their parents and peers.
Pronoun’s escape comes when they stumble upon a comic shop and encounters with different characters and the chorus.
Boatwright says, “You can get the feel that it’s a graphic novel because the show brings the acting out to life. The chorus is a crucial part of this show. The actors have made this show what it is.”
The play was a collaborative effort between students, Hinkle and even the playwright himself, Dan LeFranc. Theater Major Jessica Van Kempen works as the assistant Costume Designer under the guidance of Costume Design Professor Larissa McConnell.
“I was chosen for the show partially because of my knowledge of the graphic novel. I have a personal interest in the medium and was in the graphic novel Jterm last year so it helped me to understand the costumes and concept,” Van Kempen said.
Van Kempen, with the guidance of McConnell who designed the costuming of the leads, worked on the costuming of the members of the chorus.
“ The costumes were inspired by the graphic novel and elements of manga. It is tailored teenagers and youth. The cut of the costume is all very realistic: colorful and playful. It was a question of, ‘are they in our world or are they in the comic book world?’” Van Kempen said.
“While it’s an in your face, highly stylized comic book of a play, it also has this personal message to intersexed people and how people deal with their sexuality and how we treat people of different sexual orientations differently. It is relevant to the It Gets Better movement and is relatable to all the queer teens who are committing suicide in high school today,” Galloway said.
“I hope everyone can see it. It speaks a lot on being a transyouth in America. I hope people don’t get distracted by anything in the show so that they can see and feel for the main character.” Van Kempen said.
“I’m really glad I got to be a part of something. This show is a lot bigger than any show I’ve ever been in. If we do it right, it’s going to change a lot of people’s perspectives,” Galloway said.
The play will be performed in Anderson Theater on May 3-5 at 8:00 p.m. and on May 6 at 2:00 p.m. Tickets available now at gustavustickets.com.