(Dis)connect, Graceland University’s latest production in the drama department, is a story about a man learning about himself and relationships through the experiences of the vast amount of characters of the show. It is interconnected with a mystery story that involves your stereotypical noir detective and inner monologues. The story of (Dis)connect is a fairly conventional one; sure, it contains several off-beat and quirky moments, but the story is told with a beginning, middle, and end, like any conventional story. However, the process of developing this story was anything but conventional.
Graceland University welcomed a special guest director, Rich Brown, for this show. Rich is a Graceland alumni, but he is known all across the world for his work in an experimental type of production known as devised theatre. This is a grueling process that usually requires a year to create a full production. However, the Graceland cast had less than two months to produce this particular show.
“Usually you have the script first, and then cast your actors,” says Gary Heisserer, one of the main directors at the Graceland theatre department, who tried to explain the process of the production, “for this show, you have to cast the actors first, and then they decide everything about the story, characters, and plot. There is no hierarchal roles when developing this piece- the director isn’t in charge over everybody else- everyone is in equal playing fields and have to work together to create the production.”
That’s about as simple as you could make it, but the process was way more complicated as Lindsay Foster was able to articulate. “We used the book Found as our baseline for inspiration in the show. The book is a collection of papers found by the editor. So we would try to emulate that. We would find things like a Valentine’s Day card, and then an improvised scene would stem from that. We spent our first month doing nothing but that, and the scenes we liked we would keep and try to incorporate into the show.”
The cast of the show worked hard on these scenes and would put them into categories dealing with the themes and topics that they wanted to articulate in the show. Eventually, the cast had to start writing the show, and used the Liz Lerman critique method in order to create the scenes of the show to the best of their ability and understanding. Feelings were hurt, and overnighters were pulled, but eventually the cast was able to forge the very show that is about to premiere this Thursday.
Although this was a unique and important experience, Lindsay Foster says this is something she wouldn’t want to do again. “It’s important for actors who don’t realize how difficult it is to put a story together to learn how taxing the production process truly is.” With all this said, Foster is incredibly proud of the final product, “It’ll make you laugh, it’ll make you cry, and hopefully you have a wonderful experience!”
(Dis)connect premieres April 7, 8, and 9th at 7:30 PM as well as April 10th at 2 PM. Tickets are $1 for students and $5 for anyone else.
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