Before the play “Exiled” begins, the backdrop stands bare, a wall covered in blank white paper. By the time the play is over, it will have transformed into an array of chaotic writing, but the wall isn’t the only thing to have evolved over the course of the play. “Exiled” is a piece that is transformative for all involved.
Held in DU Department of Theatre’s White Box Theatre at JMAC Studios, “Exiled” ran from Oct.13 to Oct.23. Described as a “devised work,” the play was the brainchild of a collaborative effort between director Laurence Curry and his group of five actors. Over the course of four weeks, Curry and the ensemble created the work by stringing together ideas based on Curry’s vision of art that explored “the idea of connection and disconnection since the beginning of time.”
The play is as profound as it sounds. The plot, often unclear and open to interpretation, tells the story of five interconnected individuals: a refugee (Wren Schuyler, senior), a news anchor (Mikah Conway, freshman), a tech genius (Sam Pargament, sophomore), a trauma therapist (Rose Wariner, senior) and a quirky girl (Katie Walker, senior). These characters’ personal connections and displacements tell a single story of the human experience, one that ponders both the connection and exile we face throughout life in ways both big and small.
Curry saw news of the Syrian refugee crisis and the controversy around it, which made him wonder about the current state of human interconnectivity. The troupe initially focused this idea on senior Wren Schuyler’s refugee character before expanding out to create the others, seeing if the idea could “hold weight” in different contexts of humanity. It’s safe to say that it did.
While abstract and often beyond description, the beauty of “Exiled” lies in its ability to create transformation and interpretation both for the creators involved and the audience. Schuyler described the process in a cast talk-back after the show as “completely transformative. This entire process changed not only my view of theatre, but of the world as a whole.”
Transformation, while productive, can often be grueling. The creation of the piece was often difficult for the performers, who had little time to explore the seemingly endless ideas they had about what should transpire during the play.
“We never seemed to have enough time,” senior Rose Wariner said. “Every rehearsal we had was around three-and-a-half hours long, but it felt like 30 minutes. The process was so inspiring for us that we often had way ideas than we had time for.”
While difficult, the process gave the performers freedom to frame the work as they saw fit. “Basically, we could do whatever. We all brought our own ideas to the table and created this thing that people could also view however they wanted,” freshman Mikah Conway described. “You don’t get a chance to do that anywhere else.”
In the end, “Exiled” is a play that allows everyone in the White Box Theater to take away something from the experience and help shape their view of what it means to be human. Everything, from the staging to the performances, is a blank slate upon which both the players and the audience could paint their ideas about exile, connection and disconnection. It gives power not only to the cast and crew, but the audience as well.
“Everything we’ve created here and described to you is only a product of our own thinking about the play,” Schuyler concluded. “To find meaning in it and interpret it is not concrete, it’s up to you. That’s what this is all about.”