'Devised theater' piece to be performed at SVSU

Students perform in “The Other Project” in Oct. at Central Michigan University.

A Central Michigan University play written by several members of the University Theatre department has been picked up by neighboring Saginaw Valley State University to be performed within its own program.

"The Other Project" was created by Annette Thornton, associate professor of communication and dramatic arts and a group of 10 theater students. Representatives from SVSU's social work department reached out to the cast shortly after the debut at CMU to perform their creation at SVSU. 

The exact date of the SVSU performance hasn't been decided, though Detroit freshman Yasmeen Duncan, one of the creators of the show, said the cast are going to perform within the next few months. Duncan said she was excited to perform outside of CMU. 

The play was a product of devised theater, meaning that it was written, choreographed and readied for stage through the equal collaboration of each member of the cast and crew.

The stories in the play revolve around the idea of the “other," or the idea that some groups in society are marginalized for being different than the perceived standard.

The concept of "otherness" is ambiguous and fluid, which lead the creator’s to write pieces reflecting their interpretation on “otherness.” Topics covered include suicide, racism, sexism and bullying.  

“The concept has been around for a long time,” said St. Clair Shores freshman Brianna Milton. “It just hasn’t been brought up at the collegiate level.” 

As one of the 10 involved in the production, Milton said she is excited to perform at SVSU, as it helps spread the message of the “The Other Project.”

The intended message, Duncan said, was not to solve the “other” problem, but to promote awareness of the concept.

“I found 'other' and 'otherness' are terms used in the social sciences and humanities to examine the way people view others that are dissimilar, different, or separated from the way they identify themselves,” Shepard senior Hollie Dickman says.

Dickman worked as a dramaturge — someone who researches real-world information and uses it to work into a play — for the show. She started working for Thornton during the summer. 

The show was put together between Sept. 5 and Oct. 5, debuting in the Theatre-on-the-Side in Moore Hall on Oct. 14.  

The show’s reception was unexpectedly positive, Thornton said. The cast all had experiences of audience members commending them after the show for the message that was conveyed. 

“The show was powerful to people,” Thornton said. “A grandmother came up to me said she wanted her granddaughter to see it because of the message.”  

Claire Dettloff, a Grand Rapids sophomore, wrote and performed two songs for the project. She said she believes the “other” doesn’t exist, due to no two people being exactly the same.

“We, as people, are the same, but also different in different ways,” she said.  

Milton said the play could not be done with a different cast, because the work is their own and it is their personal stories. The cast said they all desire to perform at SVSU, but it would come down to their schedules. 

Thornton said she would like to perform the play in high schools, but there are not concrete plans to do so at this time.