This past weekend, the Theatre Count group opened its production The Red Pen Series, written by Sarah Currie and Zach Closs and directed by Sam Lee. The show, which played in Theological Hall, consisted of two half-hour original one act plays connected by the common theme of authorship and writing.
Given upcoming exams, the stress of term papers and newly frigid temperatures, you’d think it would be pretty difficult to convince a group of stressed-out university students to choose theatre over Netflix to fill their free time.
Nevertheless, The Red Pen Series succeeded in coaxing a surprising number of students to gather in a crowded campus classroom last Sunday night. This was only the first of many impressive feats the production was able to deliver.
In Zach Closs’ piece titled Edith and the Scarecrows told the endearing story of an unlikely meeting between a writer trapped in a destructive relationship and a young teen struggling to come to terms with his homosexuality.
The accompanying one-act, entitled Your Jokes Aren’t Funny Anymore by Sarah Currie, dealt with another troubled writer attempting to express the frustrations of his own life through playwriting. The only problem is, the writer’s characters aren’t too keen on playing out the scenes of his emotional backwash.
As members of the local theatre community, the writers were on hand during the entire production process, with Sarah Currie even doubling as stage manager. To actors who can often be stuck guessing the intentions of a playwright who died a century ago, this accessibility can be extremely valuable.
“As an actor it’s nice, because if you do have any questions […] for your own personal interpretation later on, you have someone who literally does know what that is because they wrote it. It does a great job of helping give you more insight into the text itself,” Bryce Fletch said of his experience acting in the show.
It also meant the creative team had rare access to the original artistic vision behind the script. In this case, that concerned what it means to be a writer, what responsibilities come with the territory and how writing can be used as a means to cope with life beyond the page.
The Red Pen Series navigated heavy depictions of depression and suicide through the portrayal of two principle characters’ struggles. The actors were able to handle these difficult subjects with refreshing sensitivity and tact. Their complete commitment to the quirky dialogue created a light, comedic tone at times, but they were nevertheless able to pull back occasionally to make room for more serious moments.
As an audience member, I was struck by the intense vulnerability and honesty of the acting in these moments. In this respect, the show punched well above its weight. The calibre of the acting put forth by the five-person cast, including Santana Hamilton, Bryce Fletch, Julia Guest, Jessica Katzman and Lisa Davenport was superb.
Overall, The Red Pen Series was a heartwarming testament to the love for theatre that is very much alive in the Queen’s university community, even on a cold, blustery Sunday night.
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