That’s right, everyone! Our THE 515 class has written, directed, designed, researched and acted in an entirely original piece that is now available to be seen – https://youtu.be/mQTrYnX-tKc! You can read its synopsis, playbill information, and dramaturgical information below.
Using the interview model of social theatre produced by practitioner Anna Deavere Smith, the M.S.U. Department of Theatre and Dance’s Theatre for Social Change class interviewed friends and family about their experiences with the pandemic and how COVID-19 has affected their lives. Performing this more serious material was interspersed with lighter bits in their piece. Some moments are improvised scenes where parents rush their daughter to a hospital only to be told a short time later that their child has passed away due to this virus without getting to say goodbye. Other improvisational material involves a spoof on Chick-Fil-A that lets us laugh about a tongue-in-cheek product called homophobia. It can be ordered as an extra to cover up the company’s marginal dishes, questioning what you really order when plugging into fast food’s corporate America. Each member of this class served as either a dramaturg, director, actor, set designer, lighting designer, sound designer, or a playwright as part of the production team. They have succeeded at mixing the darkness of our current times with an existential hope about what tomorrow may bring us beyond COVID.
THE 515: Theatre for Social Change, Fall 2020
Playwrights: Jacob Cannon, Shane Everett, Sabrina Sander, Hailey Hance, Interviewees;
Directors: Rachel Anthonis, Jacob Curless, Bailey Doran, Delaney Henley, Nicholas Kinder;
Stage Manager: Katheryn Hope Thomas
Dramaturgs: Shane Everett, Hunter Vicars
Actors: Jeremy Ashely, Jacob Cannon, Jacob Curless, Bailey Doran, Hailey, Clara Plasse, Kayla Rehder, Megan Schillereff, Kayla Stadler, Dung Truong, Hayden Weber, Sierra Wilson;
Set Design: Jeremy Ashely, Hayden Weber;
Sound Design: Alexander Diehl, Katheryn Hope Thomas;
Lighting Design: Angelina Adams
Lighting Operators: Angelina Adams, Raisa Hurtado;
Costume Design: Rachel Anthonis, Hayden Weber
Scene 1: COVID-19 was first seen in the United States on March 16th, 2020. Since then, cases
have grown steadily, and the CDC is currently reporting over 13.8 million cases within the nation
and over 271 thousands deaths.
Scene 2: This scene came about from an in-class exercise where we were able to share internal
oppressions and group up with those we connect stories with. Specifically, this scene was written
by students who are a part of the LGBTQ+ community and have been treated negatively or felt
they had to hide their true selves due to society’s view of LGBTQ+ people. A recent study at the
University of Chicago shows that LGBTQ+ youth are 120% more likely to experience
homelessness, relevant because of the large homeless population in our very region of
Scene 3: Although the threat seems to be more in European countries, conspiracy theories that
5G cell towers are the cause of this pandemic are running rampant. Government officials in
Western Europe have been preparing for attacks on cell towers from radicals of the theory.
Scene 4: Experts say that young people are more likely to take COVID precautions and follow
government mandates, even with the disproportionate dangers towards older people.
Psychiatrists have found that older generations tend to be more relaxed because they have gone
through ‘bigger’ things such as war, etc, and refuse to “live in fear,” meanwhile millennials and
younger feel a social and conscience duty to protect the community of those around them.
Scene 5: This scene stems from an in-person interview done by a student with a younger child on
what they think and feel about the pandemic.
Scene 6: One of our first scenes that stemmed from problems we see within our own
community. Evolved from LGBTQ+ to a scene about LGBTQ+ discrimination in not only the
Midwest but on a national and corporation level. One of Chick-Fil-A’s founders, S. Truett Kathy,
has founded and funded groups that are attempting to stop the marriage rights of LGBTQ+
among many other comments openly against the community.
Scene 7: “According to the U..S Department of Homeland Security, essential workers are those
who conduct a range of operations and services that are typically essential to continue critical
infrastructure operations. Critical infrastructure is a large, umbrella term encompassing sectors
from energy to defense to agriculture” (ncsl.org).
Scene 9: TikTok is one of the newest social media platforms to make a rise in 2019-2020 and
saw a boom of users and content as pandemic restrictions went into effect. Many young people,
especially us as artists, found it a good way to express our creativity in a time of such isolation.
Scene 10: Another scene which originated from our class exercises formed from a member of
our class’s personal experience and using elements of Brechtian theatre. Many different people
are drawn to shoplifting in our society- from those who are well-off looking for a thrill, to those
who do it for profit, to those who are impoverished and do it just to survive, we cannot know
where all of the people who shoplift are coming from.
Scene 11: Although the exact number is debated when people attempt to narrowly define what
an autoimmune disease or disorder is, over 23.5 million Americans can be considered having
one, and therefore, are more at risk from that alone, not including age and other factors. Common
autoimmune diseases include but are certainly not limited to: Rheumatoid Arthritis, Celiac’s
Disease, Lupus, Type 1 Diabetes, and many others that a large number of the population can
recognize and may be affected by.
Scene 12: P.P.E. is personal protective equipment, which before COVID was most commonly used
in hospitals and other medical offices. At the beginning of this pandemic, P.P.E. shortage for
essential workers was a major issue and continues to be globally, even after almost an entire year
of the pandemic.
Scene 13: This monologue is a word-for-word interview a student conducted with her
grandmother who is a high-risk-for-COVID individual. Thank you to Ida for your time and
Scene 16: Statistics and trends show that after many children across the nation resumed school
fall of 2020, the highest contraction rate among age groups was that of 12-17 year-olds, while 5-12
years of age show smaller numbers. Both follow and upward trend after school starting.
Scene 18: Inspired by a scene created in our class, incorporating elements from the other scenes
in the play, and using the character of this wrestler, this is also our call-to-action for the message that
the play has been getting at.