Ross School - Senior Project 2006-07
Mentor: Gerard Doyle
Consultants: Barbara Raeder and Geoffrey Gordon
Domain: Performing Arts
Title: If You Really Want It
My senior project consists of two plays depicting the efforts of individuals to strive for their goals in the force of adverse circumstances. One of these is a radio play. The radio play is a parable in which three trees had dreams as to what they wanted to be. They experienced disappointment in their dreams, but what they became was much greater then they had ever dreamed. The second of these is a theatrical play which concerns a young man who had to emigrate to the United States in order to find employment because his family in Colombia was faced with kidnap demands. His older brother had been kidnapped and his parents could not pay the large amount of money being demanded. During his stay in the United States he learned that adversity is a great teacher and that no goal is too high if one has the will to achieve it.
As a child in Colombia, I played make believe. My friends and I would always put on productions for Mother’s Day and for Father’s Day. We would raise money for the production by selling popcorn, lemonade and cookies. Since coming to the United States my involvement in drama has become more formal. I have participated in church productions since my arrival to the United States. My debut was in the “Passion of Christ”. I chose drama for my senior project because I believe that the audience is more engaged and has a more realistic experience with the drama. As the audience reacts to my work, I also learn something about my writing and I am able to reflect and make changes to my work for a better production the next time. Drama allows me to express emotions and to share them with others. My original idea was to write and perform a play with a moral point involving only one character. The central character was to be a young Colombian immigrant to the United States and the problems he encounters and the ways he overcomes these problems.
During the summer I went to Bay Street to watch a one woman play called “Vive la Vida” (Live the Life), starring Mercedes Reuhl. I wanted to learn the format of one-character plays. I saw how an actor could change roles or portray personality changes. I saw how the stage setting and movement contributed to the drama. I then looked with fresh eyes at my original idea of a morality play and decided to incorporate some of the things I learned from watching this drama, Vive la Vida. As I wrote my drama it became apparent to me that one character was not enough to get my point across. Therefore I expanded the play to include other characters. In the Vive la Vida production, I was impressed by how the actress portrayed different personalities and I wanted the actors in my play to adopt the same technique.
My personal goals were to learn how to direct actors in a drama, which includes staging, interpretation of text by the actors, scheduling and managing rehearsals, and motivating the actors in terms of their portrayal of the characters. I wanted to accomplish two things: to give the audience an insight into an unpleasant aspect of life in my country, and to show that the solving of everyday problems is an enriching experience. Martin Luther King, Mother Teresa of Calcutta and Paulo Coelho taught me the importance of having a dream, of daring to help people and how to reach people. They reinforced the lessons I learned from my family. They taught me that yes is a stronger word than no.
As part of my research I interviewed civil rights activist, Bob Zellner, who through his stories of his struggles and his friendship with Martin Luther King, was able to give me insights into King’s personal struggles and triumphs in his journey toward realizing his own dream.
Through my plays I am able to depict the efforts of individuals who strive for their goals in the face of adverse circumstances. The radio play was born from the development of the moral theme of the staged drama that often blessings come in disguises. With the radio play I felt that my message was reinforced. The radio play is a parable in which three trees had dreams as to what they wanted to be. They experienced disappointment in their dreams, but what they became was much greater then they had ever dreamed. By presenting the play within the play in a radio format, the audience’s imagination is given free rein to accept that inanimate objects have aspirations and emotions.
The radio play takes place within the framework of a theatrical play, which concerns a young man who had to emigrate to the United States in order to find employment because his family in Colombia was faced with kidnap demands. His older brother had been kidnapped and his parents could not pay the large amount of money being demanded. He has to overcome the difficulties of being in a new country that will not accept him, learn a new language and, most importantly, find work to pay his brother’s ransom. During his stay in the United States he learns that adversity is a great teacher and that no goal is too high if one has the will to achieve it.
The plays were originally written in Spanish and translated to English. As with all translation, idioms cannot be easily translated and some of the meaning can be lost. Conflicting demands of time influenced the original cast. As a result, in order to accommodate the change of cast members, some characters had to be eliminated or re-written. The script was revised constantly throughout the writing and rehearsal process, with changes being made in it until the last minute. The importance of budgeting my time, especially in such an ambitious project as staging a drama, became a very important factor. Being both the writer and director of a drama has taught me different aspects of stagecraft, which I didn’t previously know.
I learned that directing people in a drama is a mixture of many things: firmness, diplomacy, humor and being open minded. I learned to encourage cast members playing multiple roles to adopt different vocal and physical characteristics in order to clearly differentiate characters. I also learned that conflict between a writer and director takes on a whole different aspect when both are the same person!
Acting is something I love to do. As a result of my experience with my senior project I would like to further develop my directing skills. I would like to explore the use of drama as an educational tool, especially for the young as a way of engaging them physically and emotionally in exploring topics that are important in their lives.
Bibliography or Works Cited
Bob Zellner. 23 Feb. 2003. Viewed Oct. 2006. <http://www.bobzellner.com/>.
Clark, Carrie. Personal Interview. 3 Dec. 2006
“Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.” The King Center. 2004. Viewed Oct. 2006. <www.martinlutherking.org>.
King, Martin Luther Jr. “A True Historical Examination.” 2004. Viewed Oct. 2006. <http://www.martinlutherking.org/>.
“Martin Luther King Wins The Nobel Peace Prize.” The Nobel Foundation. 1965. Viewed Oct. 2006. <http://nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/peace/laureates/1964/king-bio.html>.
“Missionaries of Charity.” Mother Teresa of Calcutta Official Site of the Cause of Canonization. 2003. Viewed Oct. 2006 <http://www.motherteresacause.info/>.
Missouri, William and, Robin U Russin, Naked Playwriting The Art The Craft and The Lide Laid Bare. Silman-James Press, 2005.
“Mother Teresa Wins the Nobel Peace Prize,1979.” The Nobel Foundation. 1979. Viewed Oct. 2006. <http://nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/peace/laureates/1979/teresa-bio.html>.
Sacred Bible. God Talks Today. Sociedad Biblicas Unidas. 1999.
Strong, Mark. Personal Interview. 15 Nov. 2006
Zellner, Bob. Personal Interview. 22 Nov. 2006
Community Member (Details)
Barbara Raeder: Ross School Faculty, Religion and Cultural History
Geoffrey Gordon: Playwright