By Nicole Towne, SMTD Publicity Intern
Colorado State University Theatre Professor Laura Jones is taking on a play unlike any she has done in her career. The script contains no outlined characters, setting information or props. The text in the script looks like stanzas of poetry. It contains various short scenes with unattributed lines. With the text and the imagination of her group of actors and actresses, Jones has been able to take words on a page and create a show.
Love and Information by Caryl Churchill is a contemporary play about human connection and the sharing of information in the 21st century. The play, first performed at London’s Royal Court Theatre in 2012, will premiere at Colorado State University on Nov. 10.
“I’ve never really done anything quite like this before,” Jones said. “It’s very experimental. It’s a challenge.”
There are 16 actors and actresses in the show, each playing a variety of different roles. The approximately two-hour show is broken up into seven sections. Each section is made up of at least seven blackout-style sketches, or as Jones likes to call them, “sound bites.” It is like catching a snippet of a conversation — less about a clear beginning, middle and end, and more about expressing a concept or idea faced in real life.
Jones said the production is like a more intellectual Saturday Night Live, where the audience is analyzing communication.
“The first two weeks of rehearsal have been trial and error,” Jones said. “We just keep trying different combinations of people.”
Not only do decisions have to be made about who plays whom, but there are options for how the lines on the page can be split between the actors and where the scene will take place. These considerations have been answered through creative exploration between the students and Jones.
“We are creating all of it together as we go along, which is the challenging part and also the fun part,” said senior Theatre Performance major Cierra Amavisca. “I think that is what causes a lot of the creativity in the rehearsals, but it’s also difficult because there are so many options and choices that we can play with that it’s tough sometimes to lock in a certain choice.”
Realism and naturalism
The decision to take both a realistic and modern approach to the play remains foundational for all 50-plus scenes.
“We are kind of going for realism and naturalism in this piece,” Amavisca said. “We are making the characters like how normal people are. We’re not trying to make caricatures or dramatic in-your-face people that you wouldn’t come across in your own life. Just the realism of it, I hope that the audience can pick up on that and take a piece of that with them.”
Amavisca’s favorite scene to perform in is “Fate.” The scene discusses choices and the question of fate. Amavisca and her scene partner decided to set the scene around a suicide attempt.
“One of the characters is about to attempt suicide and the other interrupts them, and they kind of discuss what fate is and if this person should make this choice or not,” Amavisca said. “I think it’s really powerful and gripping.”
Keeping it all straight
Zack Rickert is also a senior theatre performance major acting in Love and Information. In the play, he plays eight unique characters.
Rickert said that despite the number of characters he is playing, it isn’t difficult for him to keep the characters and scenes straight.
“The scenes are so different and unique for each one that it is pretty easy to compartmentalize the lines,” he said.
Jones said the piece is great for aspiring actors and actresses because it allows them to be able to play several different roles.
“They really get to show a broad range of characters in a short amount of time,” Jones said. “All of these characters are very different. All of them have emotional issues. All of them have questions that they can’t seem to get the answers to.”
Even after teaching and directing theatre at CSU for over 23 years, Jones is able to have a unique experience working on Love and Information.
“It’s exciting to me to do something that I can really stretch, even after all of these years,” Jones said. “I can still make new discoveries of my own and find ways to connect actors with audiences in unusual ways.”
Love and Information will have two weekends of performances starting Nov. 10. All performances will take place at the University Center for the Arts Studio Theatre. Tickets are available at csuartstickets.com.