A Play of Little Moments
Christian Wilburn’s love_stories gives stage to student experiences
By Riley O'Connell '19
In the Theatre and Dance department’s first mainstage, student-written devised theatre piece, Christian Wilburn’s ‘19 (Theatre Arts) love_stories took to SCU’s Fess Parker Studio Theatre in seven sold-out shows from May 10-18 to explore “the way love manifests in the age of social media.”
“I decided to write this play because I didn’t know what I was doing [when it comes to dating and love on a college campus],” Wilburn’s playwright’s note states. “What does it mean to love in the ‘loneliest generation’? On this campus. At this time. That is the question this play seeks to answer.”
In considering that question, Wilburn last spring approached Brian Thorstenson (Theatre & Dance) with his departure point—the devised theatre term for a “jumping-off question”—for love_stories. Thorstenson then took the idea for approval to the department’s Play Selection Committee, and over the summer the two formed a leadership team with Alexa Rojek ‘19 (Political Science and Theatre Arts), and guest director Mauricio Salgado. Their conversations led to two days of fall workshops and a winter quarter course taught by Thorstenson, who gave the class two main goals: “generating material and creating an ensemble that knew how to work together.” Of their success, Thorstenson said, “We made things from the first day forward [and] came out of [winter] quarter with a rough sketch of the play and a group that knew how to jump in and make things quickly.”
After a year of planning and fifty hours of interviews, Wilburn’s piece became one in which each of the thirteen student actors portrayed themselves and what Maddie Sykes ‘20 (English and Theatre Arts) called their “generational, racial, cultural, gendered, and heterosexual” experience(s) with love and dating. Through scenes like “A Trio of Little Moments,” “Haunted By Instagram,” and “The War Room,” Sykes says the cast was able to “more genuinely portray students like us,” by giving a face to experiences of misogyny, sexual harassment and assault, eating disorders, homophobia, and suicidal ideation.
No stranger to devised theatre, the Theatre and Dance department has put on student-led devised shows for the past fifteen years, including Charisma and Claradise, the latter of which was made in collaboration with former Sinatra Scholar-Artist-in-Residence, Anna Deavere Smith. According to Thorstenson, the department plans to build on their work with Charisma, Claradise, and love_stories in Devised Theater: Practices and Processes (THTR 74), through which they will determine the next devised piece for the 2021 mainstage season.
Who writes the next piece depends on who is in the room. It might be me, it might be another student, or a group of students.
As for Wilburn, he will be attending the University of San Francisco this fall to pursue his MFA in Creative Writing.
Jun 3, 2019
Kimiko Ching '20, Isaiah Youngblood '22 (Photos by SCU Presents, Adam Hays)