By Joseph Marasciullo
The Tennessee Williams Center recently hosted the performance of two plays written, directed, and performed entirely by Sewanee students. The students were given two weeks to bring their own created works to life, and the end results were The Toothache, written by Finn Gallagher (C’21) and directed by Krystal Fowler (C’19), and The Going Away Party, written by Lilly Moore (C’21) and directed by Greer King (C’21).
The Toothache was shown first, an account of an artist rapidly losing control over his life as the lies he tells others reach critical mass. It was a deeply enjoyable production that explored the themes of suffering, truth and falsehood, and our own place in the universe.
The Toothache was the longer of the two plays, which worked well, as it allowed the lies and consequences weighing on the main character to become more and more elaborate until even the audience found it difficult to understand. It culminates in an excellent scene where Gallagher himself steps in as a police officer to try to discern what the hell just happened.
Gallagher’s play also featured standout performances by the rest of the cast, including Bram Atkins (C’21) as Jackson, the struggling artist with a toothache; Mandy Moe Pwint Tu (C’21) as Amanda, a normal girl who gets dragged into this mess because she’s out of a job; Sadira Hayes (C’21) as Emma, Jackson’s real girlfriend who’s convinced herself that she’s terribly ill; and David Provost (C’18) as Dr. Lewan, a dentist who dabbles in all forms of medicine.
Gallagher stated that was inspired by the vaudeville comedic style of fast-paced comedic action when writing The Toothache, and that with The Toothache he wanted to show the place that suffering occupies in all of our lives.
The second play shown that night was The Going Away Party, a play about two lifelong best friends at a critical juncture in both their lives. Unlike The Toothache, The Going Away Party was a much more dramatic and emotional production. When the play hit its dramatic climax, it felt as if all the positive energy had been sucked out of the room (as was intended).
The Going Away Party was a very intimate story, taking place largely on one couch in one room between only two characters: Anne, played by the writer Moore, and Liza, played by Alena Kochinski (C’18). Moore went on to say that the play focused greatly on themes of trust, feminism, and the power of the female bond.
The venue for these productions was extremely small, not on a stage but instead in a rehearsal-room sized stage with few props or special effects. There wasn’t a huge crowd either, creating a welcoming atmosphere typically reserved for thespians alone.
All the writers and directors were happy to share their own visions on their work, and one of the actors encouraging others to try out next year. Everyone in attendance, those who had made the hike all the way out to the Tennessee Williams Center, in the middle of the pouring rain, had to have been compelled by a true appreciation for the performing arts.
The student productions occur every year during the spring semester and are made possible by the extremely hard work of the writers, directors, actors, and all the behind-the-scenes personnel. For how good these student-directed plays are, they deserve more recognition.