Originality and creativity was center stage in the University of Findlay’s staging of “The Devised Project,” the Theatre Program’s spring dramatic play on April 12 at 7:30 p.m., in the Frank J. Egner Center for the Performing Arts’ John and Hester Powell Grimm Theatre.
Guest directed by Ben Gougeon, the production was created from scratch. According to John Walton, known in the theater world for his artistic performance creations that range from comedy to opera, devised theatre is “a process by which the whole creative team develops a show collaboratively. From actors to technicians, everyone is involved in the creative process.”
Participants typically begin with improvisatory theater exercises and or other conceptual rehearsal techniques to “tease out stories they’d like to tell and why they’d like to tell them,” explained freelance theater critic and New York Times reporter Eric Grode in TDF Theatre Dictionary. “Over time, a text emerges, one covered with the fingerprints of each and every participant,” he stated.
In an intensive and condensed rehearsal process, “The Devised Project” iteration from UF is being co-created by an ensemble of students and Gougeon using movement, ensemble, and visual elements. The production will focus on a particular theme or topic determined by the ensemble. There is a discussion after the performance to review the creative process.
University of Findlay’s “The Devised Project.”“As artists, the act of devising theatre is the ultimate form of creating,” said Gougeon. “We started from nothing, and through the rehearsal process, will be working to create an exciting piece of theatre that investigations questions about love, fear, and how they intersect. Hopefully, our audience will leave the theatre with those same questions, and can examine how their own lives are affected by love and fear,” he said.
Gougeon, originally from Michigan, is a veteran of stage and screen. He is currently based in New York City, and has directed with Nylon Fusion Theatre, Metropolitan Playhouse, Bloomington Playwrights Project, Shawnee Theatre, Columbia University, and eXit Productions. His acting work can be seen on Amazon’s “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel,” “Bull,” and “The Blacklist,” and will be in the upcoming seasons of “The Deuce” and “Succession.” He earned a Bachelor of Arts from Western Michigan University and a Master of Fine Arts from Western Illinois University.
Meriah Sage, assistant professor of Theatre at UF, hopes Gougeon and “The Devised Project” experience will motivate theatre students to generate their own works and participate in additional unique collaborative productions in the future. “The imagination and creativity required in this work will stretch our students in new ways. It will introduce them and engage them with a different (and very popular) genre of theatre,” said Sage. “We hope that it will inspire them to create their own works in the future and encourage them to audition for future Devised work in the professional world.”
The cast includes: Abigail Starcher, Alisha Ohanian, Celia Brand, Eli Garmon, Eliza Brisbin, Jack Yeater, Paul Beaver, Riley Klauza, Robbie Riffle, Ryan Blake Bush, Sadia Akhter Aurna, and Staci Brenneman
Crew members are: Dramaturg/Assistant Directors: Cody Watson and Jonda Krontz; Stage Manager: Elaine Schaffter; Assistant Stage Manager: Sara O’Bryan; Lighting Designer: Dustin Druckman;
Technical Director: Matthew Stimmel; Costume Design: Kathy Newell; and Props Design: Jessica Leszkowicz.