This spring, DramaCentre will be producing one of the most unique theatre pieces it has ever realized. The play, In the Event of My Death, brings together Centre’s Dramatic Arts department with playwright Lindsay Joy, a New Jersey native, in a personal and intense collaboration.

The show follows a group of people as they come together to mourn the loss of a friend who committed suicide. The aftermath of their reunion reveals dark secrets and hidden pasts, all while the friends are trying to understand the reasons behind their friend’s sudden death.

Joy drew some of the inspiration for the plot and powerful setting from her own life.

“I had a friend named Nicole Dufresne that was killed (gunned down) in my very first year in New York,” Joy said. “All of her friends were forever changed after she died—and the night we gathered to remember her was a starting point for that change.

“It was a huge part of why I followed my gut to become a writer. I also wanted to think of a situation where many different types of acquaintances would be in one locale. A post-funeral gathering seems ripe with possibilities.”

Photograph by McKenzie Nalley

Photograph by McKenzie Nalley

The collaboration and writing of In the Event of My Death is a result of Centre’s connection with The Farm Theater in New York. The Farm Theater provides training for aspiring theatre artists and provides emerging playwrights with the opportunity to create and collaborate on new plays. During this process, Joy is walking step by step with the student actors by answering their questions about the script and their characters and even changing dialogue if necessary.

As part of this collaboration, In the Event of My Death will travel to three different colleges and universities. Throughout each production, technical elements and the script will change. The play has already seen one run at Ashland University in Ohio in November, and will be performed at Clark University in Mass. later this spring. For Joy, that first collaboration and the revised script she is currently working on has made the play more meaningful than the first draft.

“I asked all of the [collaborating] colleges (in survey form) how death has affected them. How we communicate? How we deal with mourning—right now. All of the responses and stories has informed my play,” Joy said.

All of the actors, and some of the crew, are working on this play as part of the CentreTerm class, “The Company”—including senior actress Emily Nuthall, who plays Brianna.

“For me, this opportunity is incredibly exciting given that this is typically what happens in the real world of theatre. You don’t have long to learn a show and you are in rehearsal all day,” Nuthall said. “I love it because, for a drama major, this is what I want to do after graduation.”

While the actors are in rehearsal, Joy continues to work on the script. This creates opportunities for improvement on the play but also presents challenges for the actors to learn the material.

“This play is very special because it is in the middle of being written,” Nuthall said. “Lindsay is writing us a new draft that is a bit different than what they performed at Ashland. There is a great possibility that we will be getting new pages with additions right up until we go up on stage.”

Sophomore and Lighting Designer Jillian Riseman has a different challenge—creating an entirely new light design for the play.

“It’s a little bit of pressure just because it has never been done before, but it is a really fun learning experience,” Riseman said.

There is also a quality of the play that students can identify with in their present and future lives. Joy feels that it is the impending momentum that will resonate with Centre students. “College students are always on the precipice of big choices, changes, and life shifts,” Joy said. “Any death immediately places us in a place where we think about our own mortality—our own life choices. I think a college audience is my perfect audience. I personally guarantee that you will laugh and cry. Hopefully, if we are doing it right, you will do both in rapid succession.”

“I think this is a kind of art that students at Centre will appreciate,” Nuthall said. “I know that when we did our first read through, everyone thought ‘I know these people. These are people that I can find here at Centre College.’ These characters are very modern and relatable.”

In the Event of My Death certainly provides an incredible opportunity for the students at Centre College engage in, as their interpretations will serve as a reference for future interpretations by others.

“When I think about it, it is sort of a way to create history. If anyone ever puts this on in the future, they can use our lighting design, scenic design and so on as a reference. It’s really cool to think that someone could be basing their ideas off of using your ideas,” Riseman said.

In the Event of My Death will run Feb. 13 and 14 in Weisiger Theatre. All performances will begin at 8 p.m., and students will receive a convocation credit for attending.

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