5/29 - 5/31 Westminster to Embark on New-Age Theatre Venture
What: Verbatim Theatre Performances
Where: Dumke Student Theatre
1840 South 1300 East
Salt Lake City, Utah
When: May 29 & 31
SALT LAKE CITY – Westminster professor Jared Larkin is leading the charge to bring a revolutionary new theatre project to campus known as verbatim theatre. Verbatim theatre is a branch of documentary theatre based on true events where the text of the piece comes directly from a series of interviews about a specific subject. Larkin’s venture may be the first of its kind at a college campus in Utah.
“Theatre is an evolving art form and is always striving to stay relevant,” said Larkin. “The documentary nature of verbatim theatre forces actors to let go of ideas about characters and to work for the truths of portraying another human being. I want to instill a passion for amazing story-telling in my students.”
In verbatim theatre, the playwright generally chooses a political event, natural disaster or social conflict to center the piece around, and contacts people involved in the event. Their experiences are captured in video interviews, and the actors use the resulting footage to re-create the interview on stage.
Since the creation of the first verbatim theatre piece, Smith’s Twilight: Los Angeles 1992, playwrights have used the technique to tackle a wide range of hard-hitting topics—from the abuses at Guantanamo Bay, to human trafficking. One of the most famous verbatim pieces, The Laramie Project, which focused on the murder of Matthew Shepherd, has been performed hundreds of times since its inception in 2000 and has moved generations fighting for LGBTQ rights around the world.
Customarily, the playwright conducts all the interviews and does all the research, but Larkin will involve his entire class. The project will be created during Westminster’s “May Term,” an intensive month-long semester of offbeat and inspiring courses not offered during the regular school year. The entire class will conceive the play, and the production topic is “survivors of violence.”
“I am excited to bring awareness to this cause,” said Tyson Olcott, a junior at Westminster who is involved in creating the project. “The people sharing their stories are courageous, and I believe that through them we can actually make a difference in our community.”
In order to bring the idea to life, the class hosted an open search for violence survivors in multiple locations, including the YWCA, the Rape Recovery Center and Westminster’s campus. Once they found willing participants, they went to work recording the survivors’ inspiring stories.
“The stories we will be telling with this piece aren't from the imagination of a playwright, but from the actual words and experiences of the people we interviewed,” said Larkin. “Theatre is about so much more than song and dance or fancy costumes and sets. We hope to tell these stories well, do justice to the people who survived these experiences, and to increase awareness. We can make a difference with our art."
The piece is truly collaborative, with students participating in all steps of the creation and performance process. Students will contribute to lighting, set, sound design, writing, acting, music and movement, and some will even be interviewed to share their own stories.
No matter what job a student takes on, what’s most important to Larkin is the sense of honesty and integrity that must be maintained throughout this creation.
“I’m hoping that we can, as a department, appreciate the noble and sacred responsibility it is to represent a human being and to tell his/her story well,” added Larkin.
Performances are on May 29 and May 31 at 8 p.m. in the Dumke Student Theatre. Tickets for the benefit performance are $5, and 100 percent of ticket sales will go directly to the Rape Recovery Center and the Salt Lake City branch of the YWCA. For more information, contact Jared Larkin at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Media Contacts: Krista DeAngelis & Arikka Von (801) 832-2682
Westminster is a nationally recognized, comprehensive liberal arts college. With a broad array of graduate and undergraduate programs, Westminster is distinguished by its unique environment for learning. Westminster prepares students for success through active and engaged learning, real world experiences and its vibrant campus community. Westminster’s unique location, adjacent to the Rocky Mountains and to the dynamic city of Salt Lake, further enriches the college experience. For more information, visit www.westminstercollege.edu or follow WestminsterSLC on Twitter.