By Jennifer Macler ’23 & Martha Ewing ’26
On Friday, January 27, the advanced acting class presented what was initially a poem, titled “The Journey”, by Mary Oliver as a one-act play. The poem, as described by Kate Richards, is about “leaving all of the stress of the world behind you and realizing who you are”.
Throughout the play, each actor took turns speaking, passing the lines of the poem around, while all moving in such a way as to represent their words. Mr. Burnham even suggested that the actors imagine performing to a deaf audience in order to convey the message of the play through their movements, rather than their words. This is known as devised acting, in which movement is the primary way through which to express yourself. At a few moments throughout the performance, however, they would all stop moving and speak in unison, emphasizing certain moments of the poem.
The play was short; only five minutes, but this did not make it any less compelling and dynamic. With only seven actors, each person had to put their whole self into it, without any hesitation. Kate said that this type of acting taught her a lot about trust, as she had to collaborate and believe in her fellow actors. Additionally, she found this shorter and more dynamic play to be more powerful for the audience, saying “I think that with having a somewhat shorter scene, you have more packed in, so you get more information; you realize more about what’s going on and who the actors are”.
The objective that Mr. Burnham wanted the class to take away from this experience can be summarized by Joseph Campbell’s quote: “Where you stumble, there lies your treasure”. Mr. Burnham described the creative process which artists must go through in order to create a final product, and how the class went through this process to put on this play. “I gave them a lot of prompts and ideas and they created this piece,” said Mr. Burnham. “It’s this idea that we are all throwing things on the table to try”. The creative process is all about trial and error. The actors described how they felt like they hit a roadblock in the beginning, but once they all started getting into it, they felt more inspiration and the process began to flow. Kate said, “If someone has this great idea, we try it out and if it doesn’t work, we move on to someone else’s idea, and if it does, then we agree. So it’s kind of trial and error.”
The class is very tight-knit and the seven actresses support and uplift each other when they reach a so-called “roadblock”. Shannon McCormack says “the people in our class are really encouraging” and “it’s fun to work with them”.