Students get controversial with Performance Studio Series play ‘The Shape of Things’
After applying for a directing position with the Performance Studio Series, Grand Valley State University senior, Jason Flannery, wanted to choose a script that had meaning.
“I had been tossing around a lot of scripts and the one I initially applied for was a lot more controversial, actually… But I was really just searching for something I felt I could relate to,” Flannery said. “And going over everything I could find, this seemed like a script that wasn’t just something I was pulling out of my repertoire.”
He ended up with “The Shape of Things,” a play by Neil LaBute, which focuses on themes of love, intimacy and the lengths people will go to for them both. The somewhat controversial script is marketed toward “mature audiences only” for scenes about sex and the use of adult language.
Senior Macey Madias plays Evelyn Ann Thompson, an art student who catches the eye of Adam Sorenson, played by GVSU freshman Justin Mackey, and leads him down a twisting path of love.
Because the script is so blunt, Madias said it’s very easy to relate to.
“(LaBute) doesn’t sugar coat anything, its very real,” Madias said. “It’s swearing and sex and more swearing, and that’s how people are everyday.”
With the exception of GVSU theatre professor, Roger Ellis who is doubling as the play’s faculty advisor, along with a few collaborations with the Louis Armstrong Theatre staff, the performance has been completely student-produced and directed. Although Flannery has acted in several PS Series shows, and has directed smaller one-act plays, he found out quickly just how much work actually goes into putting together a full-production.
“I had general sense of the process, but one thing about pretty much anything involving theatre, you really can’t have a good sense of it until you actually do it,” he said.
His process started last semester with choosing the script and buying the royalties, which didn’t take a lot of his time. But since January, the cast has been rehearsing almost everyday for several hours to pull the show together.
“It started off kind of choppy,” Mackey said. “We started off trying to find rehearsal space, actually because there were other shows going on, so it was a little tough to find some places to actually sit down and go through the script. But once we got rolling it was really easy and we were able to flow through things and working with each other just became a lot easier. And now tech week is here and its like we’ve been ready for a while.”
Working with all students was a different experience for the cast, but Madias said it gave them a chance to get to know themselves and their characters better.
“It’s been a different experience, definitely,” she said. “We’ve definitely had a lot more creative freedom to really recreate ourselves as our characters.”
Mackey said working with Flannery, as a student director has helped everyone become closer and better collaborate.
“With students, they know exactly how to tackle another student because they’re, you know, they’re students themselves,” Mackey said. “It’s really kind of just, kind of collaborating with friends more than, like a director instructing you to do something. Its more of a give-and-take, like you’ll make suggestions to your director and then they can help you out and they’ll tell you if what you think is right or if you have some good ideas. Its kind of I guess, easier to relate to a student director and to really kind of connect with them and do what they want you to do because in a way your exactly like them. Or hoping to be like them, anyway.”
Flannery hopes that audiences will at least get a laugh out of their performance, even if they don’t like the script.
“Hopefully they can expect to see something meaningful and realistic,” Flannery said. “The plot itself might be a scootch out there… They’ll be surprised by what they see. If anything I can guarantee that they’ll be able to laugh.”
Mackey said the show will most likely be met with mixed reviews, but he’s not worried about it.
“I know it’s hopefully going to cause some questions, raise some serious questions and some concerns, you know there might be some people who don’t agree with some of the things in the script,” he said. “It will be really interesting to see how people view the content of the show and the script because it can be, uh a little bit questionable, but I’m confident the audiences will like it. I’m sure they will.”
“The Shape of Things” opens Feb. 22 at 7:30 p.m. in the Louis Armstrong Theatre, with following performances Feb. 23 at 2 and 7:30 p.m. and Feb. 24 at 2 p.m. Tickets can be purchased by calling the Box Office at (616) 331-2300 and are $6 in advance or $7 the day of the show. For more information on the PS Series shows, go to www.gvsu.edu/theatre.