“We could do a play that explores the student experience, for example. It would be cute and fun, but that’s not challenging for us, or for the audience. I think that Kenyon students are smarter than that. They see a lot of that, but they deserve better theater than that.”
As a person who is not involved in theater, it seemed like a set rule to me that Kenyon’s non-mainstage theater productions were always held either by a group or as a senior thesis. However, I was proved wrong yesterday when I had the pleasure of sitting down with director Elgin Martin ‘17 and stars Asha McAllister ‘15 and Natasha Preston ‘17, all Drama majors, to talk to them about their upcoming, independently run production.
The show is Going to St. Ives by Lee Blessing, the story of two impressive women brought together by that which is personal and divided by that which is political as they both seek to accomplish the greater good. It will be completely independent, having no association with any of Kenyon’s student-run theater groups, and it is not a thesis.
“Why did the three of you decide to do this together? What were your motives for doing it independently?”
EM: The three of us just have a similar view on theater. While theater can be fun, we don’t want it to just be fun. We all do it because we find joy in it, but we also see it as a tool for social change. We’re basically just taking theater and expression into our own hands, and using available resources to do it.
AM: Exactly. Theater at its best is when it starts conversation. That’s what we want to do, and I feel honored to do it with people I care about. It’s taboo what we’re doing… doing it independently. But it shouldn’t be that way. We are theater practitioners, we should be practicing. People shouldn’t feel the need to have a company as their access to expression.
NP: And don’t get us wrong. We all support the art that’s happening right now, but we want to take our personal expression into our own hands.
“How did you decide on Going to St. Ives? Why is it important to bring to Kenyon?”
EM: Going to St. Ives is different from anything else you’ll see on the Kenyon stages this year. We could do a play that explores the student experience, for example. It would be cute and fun, but that’s not challenging for us, or for the audience. I think that Kenyon students are smarter than that. They see a lot of that, but they deserve better theater than that.
NP: One of my favorite quotes of Stanford Meisner’s is “don’t be good, be fearless”. I took a look at the theater I’ve been doing recently and realized I wasn’t being fearless.When I first picked up the script and read it, I was scared. That’s when I knew we needed to do it. Asha and I both cried during the first readthrough. It was deeply emotional and we connect to the play, despite being in such different places in our lives from our characters.
“Earlier you explained to me that Going to St. Ives explores the heavy themes of race, motherhood, nationalism, and medical ethics. What are you getting out of them personally, and what goals for the show in terms of expressing them to the audience?”
AM: It’s actually a deceptive play. It looks easy on the surface, but it definitely isn’t easy. In terms of race, as a black woman, I won’t have to seperate my identity from my work. Acting outside of your race is difficult. It’s nice to embrace a part of me that I normally have to ignore as an actor. Usually, if I’m cast, it’s a statement. But in this case, I can be there and live in the culture of the play, and connect with my character in an exciting way. And the show is so equal handed between the black and white characters, so it facilitates that.
EM: As the director, one of my goals for this production is to give the play a sense of space and atmosphere in a way, to suck the audience in. The audience is going to experience the story in close proximity, in a personal and intimate way. That’s why we’re using Weaver for the show. I’m big into effective minimalism, less is more. From that intimate, minimalist perspective, we can address the themes as they relate to issues at hand today. For example, with race, how it corresponds to race issues at Kenyon, or even Michael Brown and Ferguson.
NP: Yeah, when you approach something like this, it can be tough. Clearly Asha and I don’t have children, but we can react to the situation and express that, make it accessible for the audience. To explore the experience of motherhood and womanhood through this play is amazing. We’re behaving truthfully under imaginary circumstances, and we hope the audience can grow with us in that sense.
The production is still in its preliminary stages, and there’s still so much to come. Here’s some quick info for reference, save the date:
- Show Dates: November 14th, 2014 at 7:00 pm and November 15th, 2014 at 2:00 pm
- Location: Weaver Cottage
- Tickets will be free but you have to make a reservation for them, keep an eye out on studentinfo and allstu for information in the coming weeks!