Going to St. Ives: Three Drama Majors Rediscover Independent Theater on Campus

via. actorsco-op.org

“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!


14 responses

  1. Hi, so just to be clear, there’s been at least one completely independent production (Generally meaning that funding is secured through Fun Funds or ODADAS) every year for the last three. Last year there was COCK which went up in Gund Gallery, the year before there was Blackbird, in the Bolton theater trap room, and the year before that, there was God of Carnage, also in Weaver. It’s not particularly taboo, it just takes a little more effort and is, therefore, less common.

    • Most accurate description of the department I’ve ever read. couldn’t be happier to be abroad and away from that folly.

    • If you’re “not afraid to rip what is probably the most problematic, racist and pitiful department at this school” why did you use a pseudonym? You can say a lot of things using a pseudonym. How courageous.

      Sounds like someone is a bit bitter…

      Is the drama department at Kenyon perfect? No. No one is saying it is. But, to be honest, I think a lot of your claims are unjustified, vulgar, and simply inaccurate. And as far as I’ve seen, Kenyon’s drama department still has a very strong name in the real world. Maybe you haven’t gotten far enough into the business yet to discover that.

      Good luck!

    • Take it to the department. There are valid points being made here, but if both sides paint each other as hyperbolic ignorant idiots, then no one gets anywhere. Don’t use this opportunity to make enemies. Take what Asha said. Theatre is about creating conversations and sharing stories that we may not know or have any experience with. Share your stories with the department and your concerns in a constructive matter, because your stories matter. If you don’t understand the issues, listen with an open and critical ear. Remember, we’re here to share stories, both easy and challenging, and have fun.

  2. Vulgar? Yes. Unjustified and Inaccurate? No. Who cares about vulgarity when the point is being made. You think that [MODERATED FOR VIOLATION OF COMMENT POLICY] is going to help you at all? She needs to go first. Who cares if the department is racist. Stop being whiny babies trying to cause a problem when there’s nothing wrong.
    But some of the pisslords who call themselves professors here need to gtfo.

  3. Drama is also unwilling to work in any real way with other departments, namely Music and English. What an embarrassment, compared to other schools where screenwriting and playwriting and musical theater all flow together so cooperatively with Drama. But NOT AT KENYON. Look at the way other schools do this! Tear down the walls! Think about who is keeping the partitions so rigidly in place, and why.

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