Changes: An Ethnodrama
Director's Note - June 7, 2021 - by Amanda Urban
The extraordinary circumstances of this year offered an opportunity to do something new: to not only perform a play, but to create one. This production offered a space for students to be together and build an ensemble; after all, devising a play from scratch takes a lot of collaboration, creativity, and commitment.
The show that you are about to watch is an ethnodrama - a play in which the cast develops a script from interviews with real people from our community. Our process began with an ensemble-building activity: students shared a photograph that was significant to them in some way. As we shared, we realized that many of our pictures were connected to stories about life before Covid - and about how things had changed so drastically. We continued to discuss this idea and landed on the underlying theme of change. We wrestled with questions like: What comes to mind when people hear the word change? How do relationships cause us to change? How do places cause us to change? What big world events have caused change? How do we cope with change? What can we learn from it?
Once we had our questions, students conducted interviews, transcribed them, and studied their interviewees’ vocal and physical idiosyncrasies. We then worked closely together to find patterns, connections, and juxtapositions in the stories themselves. Students were encouraged to think outside of the box: how could we incorporate dialogue, artwork, music, and dance into our play? Ultimately, we landed on choosing to include just dialogue, as it seemed to fit more with the tone of the play. Junior Hunter McKendry also worked tirelessly to craft original, beautiful underscoring for our production.
“Changes” is a completely student-crafted play that captures real people’s stories of loss and recovery, the ordinary and extraordinary, and ultimately, the hope and optimism that change can bring. We are grateful to our interviewees for sharing their stories with us and are honored to perform them for you. We hope you enjoy the show.