The DU Department of Theatre recently presented a play called “Exiled,” a five-person original performance that captured the senses and provoked emotion.
Imagine DU’s White Box Theatre—a room painted white from floor to ceiling—with the back wall plastered with sheets of white paper and the only set pieces, five black blocks, lined up along the floor. When the lights go down, the cast members slither and slink out into the dark theatre, silently moving the blocks around and using markers to write words, phrases, charts and equations on the white paper.
“Exiled” is what is known as a “devised” work of theatre. The cast starts with a concept—in this case, being isolated, dealing with trauma and facing humanity—and writes a script.
“We kind of used these three words: exiled, connect and disconnect on our very first day and what they made us think about,” said actor Wren Schuyler (Senior, Littleton, Colo.) in a cast and audience talk-back after the show.
The script is original and profound, with no single narrative or plot coming through. The stories of all the characters flash in and out during the 40-minute play and emotions and backstories are revealed to the audience piece by piece.
There are five characters in the show: Jim Nash (Mikah Conway, Freshman, Seattle, Wash.), Vincent Janssen (Sam Pargament, Sophomore, Potomac, Md.), Day Rahal (Wren Schuyler), Claire Paxton (Katie Walker, Senior, Centennial, Colo.) and Lauren Roth (Rosa Wariner, Senior, Denver). Each is unique in history, costume, movement, style and patterns of speech, but they are all connected by their shared emotions and a feeling of seclusion, and it is here where the story originates.
After devising the script, the talented cast members created movement to accompany the words. All plays have some form of motion, but DU’s “Exiled” is based largely on physical movement, with practiced choreography, almost dance at some points, that evokes the emotion of the characters. Every physical action has a purpose and a meaning in “Exiled”; nothing is done by accident.
The show was directed by Laurence Curry, a guest director at DU, who facilitated the entire creation of “Exiled.” He gave the actors an immense amount of creative liberty, which is necessary when forming a show from scratch. Curry provided the cast with character foundations, the basics of movement and, most importantly, an environment in which to experiment and create something amazing and unique.
“We are gifted with space to work with the imagination, dreams, inspiration, gifts and mistakes of the mover/actor and explore a social justice issue until it’s complete,” Curry wrote in the playbill.
The product of all this artistic experimentation was, in itself, an artistic experiment. “Exiled” is an exploration of humanity through creation, voice and movement, and it is unlike most traditional plays. The cast embraced this, though, and reassured the confused but pleased audience after the show that not all of it was supposed to make sense.
“This isn’t a show where we expect you to come and be like, ‘That was enlightening. I know exactly what just happened.’ We expect some confusion. There’s a lot of abstractness in the show… It changes every night. Every time we perform it, it feels different. There’s one continuous theme, obviously, but it’s always different. It’s always an experience,” said Conway.
The DU Department of Theatre’s production of “Exiled” ran from Oct. 13 to Oct. 23. It was the first main stage show of two this quarter. The next performance is a play called “Art,” a comedy by Yasmina Reza, that runs from Nov. 3 to Nov. 13.