Writing the story of “US”

Posted: October 31, 2017

Student written fall play seeks to find meaning of “US”

On November 9th, 10th and 11th, Minnehaha Academy Players will be performing a student-written play called “Us.” The play will take place at the Guthrie Theater’s Dowling Studio. Four writers were chosen to make the script, and there are in total 12 actors.

The decision to have the fall play be student-written was made by Nicholas Freeman, a co-director of the play, after the explosion at north campus. 

“After what happened on August second, I just sat and prayed on the situation,” said Freeman. “I reflected, and I thought, what kind of show could I pick that would serve these students well? And I kept hearing ‘us’ in my head. ‘Us, us us.’ Everything that was happening at school, away from school. It was all about us coming together. I thought, we need to hear from these students. These students need to be the voice of the theater right now. For our community.”

Us, however, will not be entirely about the explosion.

“We’re trying to stay away from something catastrophic,” said Freeman. “My goal is not to get too close to home with what happened with our school last summer. That’s just dangerous territory, that I don’t feel is appropriate.”

Greta Hallberg, one of the writers and actors for the play, added that Us will be unlike most Minnehaha productions.

Seniors Caelin Hobin, Seth Retzlaff and Greta Hallberg work together to write a scene for the fall play, “US.” Photo by Patrick Cullinan.

“It’s very different,” Hallberg said. “I encourage people to come in with an open mind. There’s a lot of conflict in the show that people aren’t usually used to seeing in MA shows. Be open to new ideas, and that conflict.”

Hallberg also talked about the process of writing, and how it works for the student writers.

“There’s a term, ‘kill your darlings,’ that means, ‘don’t have anything be precious,'” Hallberg said. “[You might be] like, ‘Oh I really loved this character doing this certain thing,’ but if it doesn’t work in the show, you just have to kill it. That’s the trick. You can’t take it personally, if it’s not working, you just have to scrap it.”

With the writing process now complete, the actors have a couple weeks to practice before the show. The location of the show was especially intriguing for many.

“I reached out to the Guthrie,” explained Freeman, “with a message of why we would like to be in that space and why it would be important for us to be there, and they got back to me, and said, ‘This sounds intriguing. I will be in touch.’ Two days later I got a phone call and they said, ‘Welcome to the Guthrie. How do we make this work?'”

Later Freeman explained just what the theater will be like.

“[The Dowling Studio] is perfect,” said Freeman. “It’s 199 seat theater, we can configure it however we want. It’s contemporary, it’s grand as far as the whole building is grand, and this theater is stunning for a black box, but it’s also very intimate. So we can tell a really cool story in this space.”

Another unique aspect of Us will be a talk-back at the end of every showing.

“It’s going to be a full-length show; however, we’re trying to leave room for a fifteen to twenty minute talk-back at the end of the show,” Freeman explained. “That’s a crucial part of this theater experience. This is an instance where we’re each taking part in a theatrical event that’s unique to each and every performance. Each performance is going to be different. Questions that come toward us are going to be different.”

This year has been and is expected to be unique in many ways, and the theater department is not going to miss that mark. 

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