Creative collaboration constructing original play

imageThe original theatre production “No Such Thing As Solo” is coming together, word by word, writing by writing, night by night on the SUNY Oswego campus.

The creative collaboration by students and others, directed by community theatre performer and writer Peggy Shaw, will open Nov. 5 at the Frances Marion Brown Theatre in Oswego’s Fort Ontario Park.

Shaw, a 30-year community theatre veteran who is half of the Split Britches performing troupe in New York City, came on invitation from SUNY Oswego theatre faculty member Jonel Langenfeld-Rial to oversee a production about surviving domestic violence. It’s a tricky tightrope act, they said, trying to shed light on a pervasive problem while not dwelling on the negative aspects of domestic violence.

“I work with something called ‘creative truth,’ where you take the truth and make it into poetry or into interesting writing of some kind,” Shaw said. She also uses “impulse writing,” which emphasizes spontaneous creativity over self-censorship and self-consciousness.

She has been working with a core of SUNY Oswego students as well as survivors of domestic violence at a safe house run by Oswego County’s Services to Aid Families.

“This is about empowerment, not exploitation,” Shaw said of getting survivors’ stories. For example, she may ask them to fantasize about what they would like to be or the life they would like to lead and write something that reflects it.

Much of the creative process also involves nightly meetings with students whose creative work helps forge the production’s outline. Through “homework” assignments, creativity exercises and interactive collaboration under Shaw’s guidance, the piece is coming together.

“It’s thrilling, really,” Shaw said. “We’re not worrying about a product as much as the process of getting people creative and telling them their stories are valid. It’s up to us to make it theatrical.”

Langenfeld-Rial said that while the production focuses on women because they are the most likely targets of domestic violence, the process notes that there are also men and children who survive abuse.

“The production is for everyone, even though we focus on women. It’s for men and children, too,” she said. “All we ask is for people to come with an open mind and not to expect the usual theatre production.”

The production will preview at 8 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 4, with all seats $5. The premiere of “No Such Thing as Solo” at 8 p.m. Friday, Nov. 5, is a Salute to Services to Aid Families, with all tickets $20.
The show also has an 8 p.m. curtain Nov. 6 and a 2:30 p.m. start Nov. 7. Tickets for those shows cost $12, $10 for seniors and students, $7 for SUNY Oswego students.

This project is made possible in part by Artists and Communities, a program of Mid-Atlantic Arts Foundation, and by major funding from J.P. Morgan Chase Foundation. It is carried out in cooperation with Artswego, Services to Aid Families and the Oswego Players. The Target Corp. provided additional funding.

For reservations, call the Tyler Hall box office at 312-2141.

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PHOTO CAPTION: Team effort—Guest artist Peggy Shaw, left, coaches as Meghan McGarvey (center), a sophomore theatre and music major at SUNY Oswego, acts out a scene during creativity exercises in preparation for the original production “No Such Thing as Solo.” Helping on the scene are senior psychology major Samarauh Person (right) and freshman fine arts major Jose Ramos (partially off camera). The nightly on-campus sessions, supervised by Shaw, provide the outline for the production focusing on survivors of domestic violence.

(Posted: Oct 20, 2004)