Bucknell Students Explore Emotions in Student-authored Play
2019 Nov 22
For Catherine MacKay '21, a theatre major from Unionville, Conn., every play or musical in high school started the same way. A teacher would hand everyone a script, hold auditions and then stick to the original text as if it were chiseled in stone.
Consider Beauty and the Beast, where MacKay was cast in the lead role. MacKay knew there was only so much of herself she could bring to Belle - just like she knew the guy playing Lumiere would use a French accent, and the girl cast as Mrs. Potts would talk like a polite British mother.
"That script already exists. You can't make any changes to it," she says. "There's an expectation of who those characters should be."
But at Bucknell, everything changed. MacKay was introduced to a creative process called devising, where performers collaborate to create an original product that reflects their experiences of the world.
Professor Anjalee Hutchinson, theatre & dance, directed the production and began by giving the students three themes for their devised piece: anxiety, loneliness and miscommunication. Then she challenged the students to look within and create "a mountain of moments."
At this stage, quantity outranked quality. A moment could be something as simple as "a character walks through a door, closes the door and sits down." Or it could be a few lines of dialogue between two characters. Or part of a song.
"And then you can piece those together," MacKay says. "I fell in love with it - how creative it is and how you work together with other people to create a beautiful piece of art."
Suddenly, MacKay discovered her passion for theatre extended beyond the spotlight's reach. For Unheard/Unspoken, she served as one of two assistant directors, helping guide the journey for her fellow students.
"You may think you know what you want to do and have your heart set on something, but definitely keep an open mind," she says. "Bucknell will open your eyes and make you realize you had strengths and capabilities that you never realized."