How are nine USD students, Mickey Mouse gloves, one theatre class and Disney princesses all connected? They’re the foundation for the latest production from the USD Undergraduate Theatre Arts and Performance Studies Department, called “TBD: A Collectively Devised Theatre Piece.”
The students enrolled in Theatre 494 (Collaboration Theatre Making) are involved in a process called Devised Theatre, a rapidly growing type of theatre.
After auditions, nine USD students were selected to be part of this groundbreaking process. Led by their fearless director, Assistant Professor Monica Stufft, they’ve created, written, choreographed and performed a piece of theatrical art from the ground up.
“Devised theatre means we create the show from scratch, together in the room, from the inspiration of the people in the room,” Stufft says.
As the class began to brainstorm, one particular theme kept recurring, she adds: “When we talked about what inspired us, Disney kept coming up again and again.”
Thus, the general concept for TBD was formed. But creating the concept was merely the beginning. Extensive research, field trips, film study, and Internet scouring were all necessary components for true creative inspiration.
Research was conducted through a day spent at Disneyland in Anaheim, the life of Hans Christian Anderson was explored, and viewing the film, “The Little Mermaid.” The research element of the production allowed the cast to view the Disney franchise as a greater whole and not merely focus on personal feelings or relationships to Disney. However, the personal element was certainly not discarded; it was embraced as the performers analyzed their relationships with Disney in light of their new knowledge.
Stufft explains that the play “uses the personal stories of the people in the room.” But even beyond that it asks the question, “how is Disney acting upon us and how are we acting upon Disney?”
Kelsey Shulte, a senior Theatre Arts major, further explains TBD’s creation.
“We were able to share our creative ideas and watch our ideas come to life on stage. The entire show is built from scratch and we are able to share personal moments and stories with an audience.”
While the process has been inspiring, there have also been challenges. The show didn’t begin actual production until March 18. This means that no material was created until about a month and a half ago.
“The whole process has been quite the challenge for myself and the cast. Not only are there nine different opinions being thrown about in the space, but we also have to learn when to listen and when to talk,” Shulte says. “Compromise and creativity are the two main components that have driven this process.”
The entire process has been one of creative growth and lessons learned from such an out-of-the-box creative endeavor that could be applied to any artistic medium.
When asked what advice she had for other artists interested in new, and potentially intimidating, creative endeavors, Shulte answers, “Go for it. Dive in and don’t be afraid to take that leap of faith. It’s difficult and exciting, and you will discover things about yourself and others that you never would have realized otherwise.”
TBD performances run May 2-5 at the Black Box Theatre, Camino Hall room 131. Show times vary. The show is expected to sell out quickly. Tickets, priced $8 (students and seniors) to $11 (general admission) are available at the Hahn University Center Box Office until noon on May 2 (cash and credit cards only). Remaining tickets available one hour before showtime at the Black Box Theatre box office (cash and checks only).
— Taylor Milam ‘15