Storytelling class tells tales at Vogt

Members of DRAM 439 tell their stories at the Vogt Studio.
Members of DRAM 439 tell their stories at the Vogt Studio.
Photo courtesy of Tim Fort

Theatre Preview: What’s Your Story? @ the Vogt Studio Theatre, until Feb. 16

Everybody’s got a story to tell, but the question is: how do you tell 18 of them in one night?

Students of Queen’s drama department will tackle that very challenge this week as the DRAM 439 Storytelling class presents What’s Your Story?, a night of short scenes featuring oral stories told through a variety of mediums including song, dance and puppetry.

The product of two semesters’ worth of classes, the production features original pieces mixed with traditional and modern-style classics covering a broad range of exciting topics.

The show begins with “Call of the Wild,” a movement piece choreographed by Lauren Jeffs and Scheherazaad Cooper, and is followed by “Bunny,” a scene written and performed by Johnny Solm, describing the events of a particularly traumatizing childhood experience.

“Walter the Farting Dog” opens the second act, which is a children’s story about the life of a heroic dog with a certain medical affliction. “Walter” is told with the creative use of puppetry, while the later scene “Corner Talk” uses a song by Vancouver-based folk group Po’Girl to address the poignant topic of British Columbia’s “missing women.”

“This biggest challenge we have faced [as a class] has been combining each piece and making the show a real collaboration,” said Stacey Norton, director of “Corner Talk,” “Everyone has learned to support each other in the process.”

Putting together a show with so many scenes and so many actors hasn’t been easy, the cast agreed. Last semester, every student shared three stories, one from each of the three studied styles—original, traditional and modern—as professor Daniel David Moses taught the class about the aesthetics and practice of storytelling as an art form, and how it relates to the roots of modern theatre.

In January, each person selected one of their three stories to be developed for performance, and since then every student has also taken on the role of directing one piece and acting as dramaturge for a third piece.

“We’ve all had to fill so many different roles,” explained Sarah Hinton, who selected the traditional myth “The Three Treasures” as her story. “On top of working on others’ pieces, we’re also in charge of lighting, sound, and other production elements.” With twice-weekly rehearsals beginning just five weeks ago, finding practice time for each scene in What’s Your Story has been difficult.

Drama department head Tim Fort designed a complex daily production schedule, balancing several different rehearsal venues in Theological Hall and giving each piece a 15-minute rehearsal slot. Students move seamlessly through each rotation, switching easily from actor to director or playwright. The process has required a high level of organization and determination from each student involved, but class members were quick to explain how fun the experience has been.

With all those rehearsals behind them, however, other challenges still remain before the production reaches opening night. The recent performances of Vogt Studio Slot C in the Vogt performance space has also meant only a single day of dress and tech rehearsals for What’s Your Story, but the cast remains positive.

“We’re all excited to see the scenes onstage as a final product,” Hinton said, “There are pieces I haven’t seen during rehearsal, so everybody will be watching some scenes for the first time.” With such a variety of themes present in What’s Your Story, the selection of scenes is sure to appeal to everyone. “The End of Khombo,” an original piece by Scheherazaad Cooper, tells the story of the day she and her cousins decided to kill the monster Khombo once and for all, only to discover the monster was their aunt in disguise.

Another original story, “Tyrol Truth-or-Dare Subterfuge,” features a cast of nine using music and dance to chronicle Phil’s own experiences, while Seamus Malloy’s scene “Bizarre Death” follows detective Sam Smith as he investigates the mysterious events of a very bizarre death. “Keep the Lights On,” developed by Amy Symington, features a creepy campfire ghost story and an eerie choral accompaniment.

The show ends with a scene based on the Simon & Garfunkel song “Bookends,” directed by Tim Fort and involving the entire production cast. What’s Your Story runs from Feb. 12 to Feb. 14 at 7:30 p.m. at the Vogt Studio in Carruthers Hall. Tickets are $2 or donation, with proceeds going to the local nonprofit organization Kingston Storytellers, in support of the further development of storytelling.

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