A blank white-board. Chairs occupied by the passionate and eager students of Advanced Theater 1. Their director, Mr. Campbell Duncan is about to announce their next project. He breaks the nervous energy and the room is suddenly filled with excitement and curiosity. They’re going to be performing a show for the public. But there’s a catch; the class is going to be writing it.
Advanced Theater 1 is a course designed for freshmen who already have a good foundation of the basics of theater. Instead of just performing a pre-written show, the students were challenged to take their knowledge of theater and write their own twist on Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. The class will perform their show on Dec 12 and 13, but that’s not the only reward they’ll get out of the project. They’ve already learned a lot about the playwright process.
“I’ve learned that normal writing is nothing like writing a show, it’s so much different. I’ve definitely learned a lot of the little things and how you’re supposed to do it in more of a ‘talking voice.’ It’s been a good experience,” Advanced Theater 1 student, Tate Daughtery said.
“I feel like it’s important for students to write and workshop their own works because it gives them a much deeper understanding of the story and character building process, as well as a unique sense of whole ownership over the production process,” Duncan said. “It’s also a fun creative exercise that challenges actors especially to think critically about the various facets and conventions of theater, while also considering what they know about performance.”
Along the way, the students have come across some struggles with writing the script for a Christmas show, rather than just a regular essay.
“We had to make sure it wasn’t too cheesy and we had to go back in and make sure what we were saying made sense and fit the characters,” Advanced Theater 1 student, Sierra Trbovich said.
With a class of 20 students, they occasionally had trouble agreeing on the characters, plot, and the way some dialogue was written.
“It’s definitely not easy collaborating with 20 people, especially when we’re writing something we are going to perform for other people, it has to be perfect,” Daughtery said. “And of course, we have Duncan to go over it. It’s just hard collaborating with that many people.”
“Some people would put in jokes or sentences that should not be there. Having those creative differences really affected stuff, but we always came to an agreement,” Advanced Theater 1 student, Owen Racis said.
The class has enjoyed getting to write their own characters, considering they’re the ones that get to bring them to life.
“It’s cool because when you write the character, you can connect with it a lot easier. And it just feels like it flows better, and it feels like it’s really you,” Racis said.
Not only have the actors worked on the show by writing the script, the students in Advanced Tech 1, a class for freshmen with advanced knowledge of technical theater, have been working to come up with ideas on how to execute the show technically.
“We’ve done a basic set idea and idea boards of what the set could look like; where it could be, what we would need, etc,” Advanced Tech 1 student, Audrey Lorenz said. “And then once we actually get the finalized script, we can actually start looking for props, building the actual set, then working with lights and sound.”
Advanced Theater 1 had to make sure that the show they wrote kept the spirit of the original A Christmas Carol. They took the original characters, plot, and conflict and made them more modernized.
“I decided to challenge my students to twist Charles Dickens’ ‘A Christmas Carol’ because I’m fascinated by the story: a terrible dude who doesn’t deserve a second chance from anyone has the opportunity to look back over his life, realizes the error of his ways, makes good, and is beloved by everyone,” Duncan said, “It’s not all-together practical, but it does hold a certain ‘magic of Christmas’ value.”
The students of both Advanced Theatre 1 and Advanced Tech 1 are looking forward to sharing their creation with the public and spreading Christmas cheer with those who need it.
Duncan said, “With some guidance and nudging, they’ve created a really fun Christmas story that is both familiar and entirely new. That’s an exciting way to finish a semester.”
By Taylor Barnett, Contributor