CHADRON – How does a theatre department present a play that is socially distanced during a pandemic? This question, combined with time travel and how it could result in alternate outcomes, led Chadron State College Professor Scott Cavin into a collaboration with Artist-in-Residence Jenn Poarch and playwright David Craven, a former CSC Artist-in-Residence, who lives in Georgia, to develop a concept.
Their final product, “What’s Next?” will debut Nov. 12-15 in the Student Center. Performances are free and will be at 7:30 p.m. Thursday through Saturday and 2 p.m. on Sunday. Seat reservations are required and can be made online. Face coverings and social distancing are required.
The origin story centers on a college freshman, Arthur, who shows up early to a class hoping to chat with a girl who interests him. Through this scene, the audience learns a bit about Arthur's background and his friends. Will he gain enough confidence to ask out Jenny?
The three additional scenes, in two different dorm lobbies and a student center, are possible alternate endings to the origin story. Each audience will view the scenes in a different order.
Poarch, who is directing the production, said new characters are introduced, as well as new circumstances, some beyond the characters’ control. All of these introductions affect Arthur, his opinions, behavior, and growth, she said.
Topics addressed in the production include change, insecurities, gun control, and bullying.
“By listening to others and paying attention to things around us, we can control how we react to any given circumstance,” Poarch said. “The story is intended to be open-ended in all aspects. It can take place anywhere really and anytime between 2005 and present-day. Of course, being on the Chadron State College campus, as the director, I am tailoring it to this area and its environment.”
Four audiences of 14 individuals each will view the first scene in the Bordeaux, Ballroom, Scottsbluff, and Lakota Rooms. After viewing one of the 20-minute scenes, each group will walk to the next location for another performance until they have seen the entire show.
Cavin said Director of the Panhandle Public Health District Kim Engel approved the play and commented that it was an innovative way to have a safe production.
“We’re trying to survive and thrive in the pandemic. This approach is similar to guerilla theatre. The audience moves with us and we all adapt to change together. We’re moving out of our comfort zone. We had to do that when M-Hall was being renovated in 2000,” Cavin said.
Poarch said the unique format requires actors to be quick on their feet.
“The actors have to be ready for new dialogue and other changes. It’s also the point of the show. There’s nothing to pull from. This production has never been performed before so we all get to interpret everything together,” Poarch said.
Ashlynn Grudzinski of Aurora, Neb., Aubrey Garrett of Alliance, Neb., Bailey Bierle of Midland, S.D., Caleb Twite of White River, S.D., Chris Lidgett of Norfolk, Neb., Cody Madrigal of Omaha, Neb., Halle Smith of Wheatland, Wyo., Jarret Buchholz of Arnold, Neb., Jarrod Paul of Gordon, Neb., Josie Fritz of Rapid City, S.D., Levi O'Dell of Piedmont, S.D., Olivia Freeze of Bridgeport, Neb., Sam LaRive of Hot Springs, S.D., and Zak Wellnitz of Rushville, Neb.
Kiersten Luce of Cheyenne, Wyo., Kyeisha Garza of Scottsbluff, Neb., and Cheyenne Bacon of Lewellen, Neb.
Brittney Peters of Rapid City, S.D.
Kyeisha Garza of Scottsbluff, Neb., Madison Kinney of Gering, Neb., Cheyenne Bacon of Lewellen, Neb., and Trinity Dietrich of Spearfish, S.D.
Production Stage Manager
Courtney Smith of Hampton, Neb.
—Tena L. Cook, Marketing Coordinator