ELHS Students Stage Original, Student-Created Theater this Weekend

Monday, November 16, 2015, 8:18 am
By: 
Danny Kaplowitz

TBD poster created by Sophie Rutkowski, ELHS student and part of the play's Tech Crew.

From Thursday November 19th through Sunday November 22nd, the theater department at East Lansing High School will be presenting its annual fall show TBD, or To Be Determined.

TBD is an original work written and performed by thirteen members of the school’s community, including this writer. We student-actors drew inspiration from true and fictional events in the lives of high school students to create the piece, which comes together to form an approximately 70-minute play with no intermission. Rather than following a traditional linear narrative, TBD presents a series of 28 vignettes, in the form of monologues, scenes, and other, experimental forms such as fugues.

This novel form result in a loosely connected set of themes covering a multitude of issues, including those of budding and breaking friendships and romances, self-image, and the US education system. Above all, the actor/writers hope to depict an honest image of high school, and how true and intense experiences are for teens like ourselves.

In a statement on the show, director Mark Shaheen has boldly claimed, “This may be the most exciting, provocative, demanding, and educationally deep show East Lansing Theater has produced. Students are creating an evening in the theater from the ground up, and what’s more, the voices are real, honest, and speak to the nature of growing up in 2015.” Indeed, it will be a completely new form, which as with any unique venture comes with both high risk and high reward, though participants all seem to be enthusiastic and optimistic.

One of TBD’s writer/actors, Maura Last, said that her goal is that “people, especially young people or students, are able to relate to the play on some level.” Further, she hopes the play can genuinely help its viewers, saying “I just want people to know that whatever shit they're going through they aren't alone.”

This sentiment is reflected in the comments of stage manager Berkley Sorrells. She explains, “This show has the potential to be very powerful for both the students and the adults within our community. I hope TBD will provide students with the realization that they are not alone when going through their personal issues, as well as reminding adults of the personal difficulties their students are facing.”

Over the past couple of months, everyone involved with the play has done an unusual amount of work. On the performing side, actors have had to conceptualize, workshop, edit, write, and then memorize and block a show, all in the same amount of time that they normally get to simply memorize and block it. The tech crew had to take an abstract concept with a multitude of settings, and create a set that unobtrusively gave an outlet for the play to occur in.

Sorrells feels that both groups were equal to their respective challenges: “In general, I am very happy with how TBD has progressed over the past few months!” she states, “It's pretty amazing to think about how we didn't have a script a little over a month ago. All of those involved have put in a tremendous amount of effort and time into the creation of this one of a kind production. “

TBD will open at ELHS’s theater on Thursday, November 19th at 7 PM. Performances will also be held on the 20th at 7:30 PM, the 21st at 7:30 PM and will close the 22nd with a 2 PM matinee. Tickets are general admission, and can be purchased at the theater 45 minutes before curtain for $5.

East Lansing High School is located at 509 Burcham Drive, in East Lansing.