Adaptations: the Theatre Gallery

Taylor Storlien-

This upcoming weekend, “Adaptation: Theatre Workshop Performance” will be performed in The Black Box Theatre. Showings will be on December 8th and 9th at 8:00 p.m. and December 10th at 2:00 p.m. Directed by visiting faculty Matt Trucano, it’s a performance of original adaptations of classic texts. Sophomores Dom Larson, Gavia Yount, and Senior Will Sorg will be performing excerpts from the works they each individually adapted over the course of the semester under Trucano’s supervision. The performances this upcoming weekend are a culmination of the class Theatre Workshop: Adaptation and Storytelling. This semester, students spent their time crafting their storytelling abilities and writing original adaptations, as well as designing, co-directing, and acting in each other’s -as well as their own- works.

The three adaptations that will be performed are The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett, adapted by Yount; Utgarda-Loki, from Norse Mythology, adapted by Larson; and The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde, adapted by Sorg. Adapting the plays involved multiple aspects of examinations of original texts, outside interpretations, and the students’ own reimaginings and goals for the final piece. Sorg’s adaptation of The Picture of Dorian Gray “honors Oscar Wilde’s infamous language while giving characters he glibly dismisses a vital, compassionate voice,” Trucano said. Different from other productions, “something that is the most unique about this production is the process of it. The scripts and vision of the production shifted quite a lot throughout the process and the workshop provides a view into theater as a process,” Lead Stage Manager and Sophomore Colin Ward said.

The other students have also felt that the process of this class and experience was both the most memorable and beneficial to them. The process enabled Yount both individually and collectively to discover more about herself and her piece: “We talk about what could work and why, we try things out, and we figure out what does and doesn’t work – and in the process, we gain deeper insight into the story and ourselves and each other and all the relationships between us and the elements necessary to put a compelling story performance together,” Yount said. Yount’s piece, The Secret Garden “skillfully uses the original language of the novel to tell what we recognized in rehearsal as a very contemporary story,” Trucano said.

This course enabled different avenues of creativity and thought. Trucano fostered an environment of helpful feedback for the playwright performers. “He gives amazing suggestions and advice. You can tell he really cares when you work with him,” Larson said. Trucano made clear to the students his goals and intentions, while also welcoming and responding to feedback from his students. Each class period proved fruitful: “Going to class is continuing a conversation that brings us to new places and new discoveries,” Yount said.

Regarding his students, Trucano is proudly impressed with their growth this semester. Throughout the semester, he has been able to “witness their growth as performers, writers, and thinkers over the course of the semester. It has been my honor to help realize the artistic vision of these extraordinary students,” Trucano said.

To Trucano, adaptation in this class is breathing new life into a piece: “In our context, adaptation means creating a performance piece out of any earlier text. It means translating from a medium that is meant to be read alone to a medium that is meant to be experienced live amongst a crowd.  We consider the pros and cons of taking works out of their original context, for example, ‘updating’ for a contemporary audience,” Trucano said.

Because of the duality behind both the performance and playwright aspect of this class, it has been especially fulfilling for Dom Larson: “This class and especially Theatre are a big passion of mine. I love both telling stories and being a part of them, and this class has given me a wonderful opportunity to do both,” Larson said. From different genres and outlooks to the different majors the student writers each have, art and creativity have taken a new form within communication and organization. For Ward, this enhanced his experience as a stage manager: “Although all of the adaptations are dramatically different in terms of tone and staging, much of this was tracking how changes evolved over time…A large part of it was communicating what needed to happen and by when and making sure that the information that I had was up to date,” Ward said.

Takeaways from this project reach outside of the classroom and away from the stage. The techniques and thought processes used inspired Yount to take them with her in both her professional and personal life: “I especially want to try incorporating our in-class practices of open-mindedness and honesty and experimentation into my future endeavors, both as an artist and in other parts of my life. I want to see how things work without any kind of initial value judgment, just with curiosity, wonder, and critical thinking,” Yount said.

Students absorbed the value of perspective, genre, and the creative process, while navigating the struggles of diverging from an original plan they might’ve had. Larson’s adaptation of Utgarda-Loki was motivated by his interest in Norse mythology as he feels it is “underappreciated when compared to Greek Mythology, and I wanted to make one of its better stories known,” Larson said. His version sets the story in an elementary school lunch room, and Director Trucano regards it as “playful.” However, his final result differed from his original vision: “My biggest takeaway is that writing and telling stories may be difficult and requires accepting change, but the end results will always be worth it,” Larson said.

Yount hopes that the audience will “think about the plays in terms of experimentation” and will “try their own thought experiments to imagine where the stories might go and how else they might be expanded or reimagined. The process is never fully complete, so let the playing continue!”

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