What to Do When You Have Performance Dates, But You Have No Script

In the summer of 2012, 13 students from the Centre College theater department are taking on an ambitious task: creating a play from scratch and performing it, all in no more than 21 days. The pressure is on, as the stage is no ordinary stage. The stage will be in Edinburgh, Scotland, at the largest theater festival in the world, the Edinburgh Festival Fringe. 

We show up, Day 1, with nothing more than open minds and notebooks. All of us had research on "Orpheus and Eurydice," a Greek myth where Orpheus, a persuasive musician, loses Eurydice, the love of his life, to death and tries to rescue her from the underworld. We had chosen to base our play on this myth in the final days of the 2012 spring semester when we created our title: After Orpheus. We arrive on Centre's campus, eager to share our research with each other. We begin improvising scenes, first to enhance our skills and bond with each other and then to create our play. 

Primary focus shifted on Day 5 to stories we had found in the news relating to the myth, and ideas for plot. Soon, we had the walls covered with posters of common motifs and plot ideas.

On Day 6, we give our posters life, creating improvised scenes around those themes. We sometimes tried to incorporate our news stories into our scenes, but they didn't always work as well as we hoped. Some ideas were completely scrapped.  Others were condensed and combined to create a full story that would be written into a formal script by our writing team later that night. It truly amazed me that three groups working in three different spaces could sometimes come up with three scenes that combined well together to make a complete storyline. After a few days of this process, our script was about halfway complete.

Working on this play is unlike anything I have ever worked on as an actor. We got random pieces of the script at a time, instead of a complete script. We actually received a completed Scene 3 before we had written Scene 2. We learned how to work around this, and we didn't have much difficulty putting things in the right order once we had written the missing scenes. 

We got to the point where we had to start thinking about the logistics of this play. We had to keep reminding ourselves that whatever costumes and props we took had to fit in our rapidly disappearing luggage space. Our set, a ladder with two small black boxes, will be rented when we arrive in Scotland. In the hands of 13 theater students, these three items can become absolutely anything. Questions regarding costume, sound, props, and lights linger. They are questions that have yet to be fully answered, as we are currently just over the halfway point in our rehearsals, and haven't quite figured out how to be both a cast and a crew at the same time. 

As our rehearsals progress into performances, I look forward to continue sharing this experience.