By KINSEY HISLE – COPY CHIEF
Centre’s Dramatic Arts department has been chosen as one of three programs in the country to participate in The Farm Theater’s first-ever College Collaboration Project.
The Farm Theater, located in Brooklyn, N.Y., first opened its doors in late 2013. After raising over $20,000 via IndieGogo, Artistic Director Padraic Lillis was able to do what he had always dreamed: create a space to cultivate young artists through workshops and mentoring programs, similar to the farm system in professional baseball.
“One of the things I see in this field is that it can take a lot of time for people with talent to be recognized to move to the next level,” Lillis said. “The artist can spend a lot of time spinning their wheels before they get the support and foundation they need to move their career to the next level.”
The Theater’s first major endeavor is the College Collaboration Project, a program originally presented by Lillis as an idea to an old friend, Associate Professor of Dramatic Arts Matthew Hallock.
“The way he first presented it to me was that he wanted to get my opinion about an idea he had for the theater’s College Collaboration Project,” Professor Hallock said. “Because I am a college professor in a theater department, he said, ‘What do you think of this?’ I said, ‘How do I get in?’”
As part of the program, Centre, along with Ashland University of Ohio and Clark University of Mass., sponsored a young playwright to write a play that each institution will workshop and produce on campus throughout this academic year.
Lillis, having directed a production of The Glass Menagerie at Centre in 2002, said the decision to partner with the College again was an easy one to make.
“While at Centre, I found the students to be serious-minded about their pursuit of theater, very smart, and hard working,” Lillis said. “Also, the faculty was very dedicated to education and had a strong passion for theater and were actively pursuing new and interesting ideas to expand the creative and educational potential of Centre.”
The playwright, Lindsay Joy, recently worked with Lillis on the award-winning Off-Off-Broadway production of her play, The Rise and Fall of a Teenage Cyberqueen. She has been working on the College Collaboration play, In the Event of My Death, since January.
In the Event of My Death focuses on a group of friends in their early twenties who meet up in their hometown following the death of their friend, Freddy. The first reading of the play took place in New York City in August. Professor Hallock, along with Professor of Dramatic Arts Dr. Patrick Kagan-Moore, senior Mariele Fluegeman, and junior Hayley Hoffman, attended the reading and gave Joy feedback on her script before rehearsals were scheduled to begin for Ashland University’s production.
As part of the collaboration, Joy’s play will be the focus of the CentreTerm course “The Company,” which will be taught by Dr. Kagan-Moore. Among those recently cast are: senior Heath Haden as Trevor; junior Ryley Swanner as Kate; senior Joshua Jerome as Connor; junior Cassie Chambers as Meg; junior Seth Gray as Peter; junior Taylee Wells as Becky; senior Emily Nuthall as Brianna; and sophomore Natalie Trammell as Amber.
In the Event of My Death will open on Centre’s campus in February and at Clark University later in the spring. The script will receive a final reading in New York City, N.Y. next summer. When it is published, all participants, including the Centre students involved, will be listed as members of the original production team.
Professor Hallock hopes that this collaboration will provide students with an opportunity they may not have elsewhere.
“Students will have an opportunity to interact with playwrights at a level that, ordinarily, undergraduate students would never get to,” Professor Hallock said. “To share this experience with two universities will, I think, create a very enriching dialogue.”
Similarly, Lillis hopes that the students involved will understand the value that artists bring to new work.
“I hope that they never to think of themselves as just the role they are playing and know that they are important in the overall development of the piece and that they are part of the ongoing life of a play they help create,” Lillis said. “To know how to bring yourself to the work, what questions to ask, and the value you add to the process is a skill.”