Friday, October 7, 2005

Casting call: one audience ready for great show

by Tim Macy

Does anyone remember what happened to those three people who got snowed in at that cabin in Alabama a few years back? Or do you remember what a nerd the young Hugh Hefner was? Or how about the blind guy who poisoned that stripper and buried her in his back yard? No, probably not.

English Alternative Theatre, known to many as EAT, has been around for fifteen years now. To date, they’ve performed more than 100 productions and 50 staged readings, focusing primarily on original scripts by KU students. That fact alone is incredible.

The climate for original student-written scripts in American universities is bleak. Most student playwrights consider themselves lucky to have their script read, while EAT, which is spearheaded by English professor Paul Stephen Lim, not only reads them but actually produces them. The opportunities provided to KU student playwrights are unparalleled.

I should know. I’ve received two productions already, the second of which, The Holocaust Kid, is playing at the Lawrence Arts Center this weekend.

Money is poured into these original scripts; there’s set design, rehearsal space, costumes and countless other details.

All of the elements of a great theatrical experience are present, with one very notable exception, the audience.

Granted, EAT does sell seats to some loyal patrons, but many students and faculty simply ignore the work being done by the company.

In The Holocaust Kid alone, there is a director, a stage manager, a costume designer, a set designer, a producer; not to mention five actors who have spent every night for months toiling over their scripts, learning their blocking, studying crash courses in boxing and developing their characters, but few will ever know this.

Stop anyone on campus and ask them how far the KU men’s basketball team got in the NCAA tournament last year, or the what the football team’s current record is, and 95 percent of them will know.

Then ask that same person how many KU playwrights have taken their work to the Kennedy Center in Washington D.C. and watch for a blank stare.

Well, the answer is five, and it all started with EAT. Stop them next week and ask where Jack (the boxer from my play) disappeared to last fall when he was supposed to start his freshman year at Yale and, well, you get the idea.

Is theatre as exciting as college basketball? No, it isn’t. But would the KU vs. Mizzou game be exciting if the stands were empty? The audience makes the difference. The actors feed off of the gasps, the whispers, the laughter.

This weekend, there are two adjudicators coming in to watch our two one-acts, the other being Edward Albee’s Zoo Story.

They will decide on the success and future of the shows, whether they will advance to regional competition and then to the national festival. If these two adjudicators hear crickets when they should be hearing enthusiastic applause for the great performances, then it’s curtains for us.

I’m not asking people to come for me. My dream, to have a cast and crew make my words come alive on stage, has been realized.

Come for your fellow KU students who make these shows happen. The same students who deserve support, applause and the same chance to advance in competition that the Jayhawks have every year.

Tim Macy, graduate student, writer of The Holocaust Kid

Original Story Located Here

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