New Shows Hit the BW Stage

Live theater recently returned to Baldwin Wallace with the staged readings of “Dear” and “The Aliens” at the Mainstage Theater at Kleist Center of the Performing Arts, on Friday, Sept. 17, and Saturday, Sept. 18 hosted by the Theater Arts & Performance Club. 

This is the first time a production has been staged since in-person productions were canceled because of the coronavirus pandemic. 

The first staged reading was “Dear” by Lily Houghton. The reading was directed by Baldwin Wallace theater instructor Martin Friedman. 

Set in the shared women’s bathroom in their college dorm, the play follows Greta, Hazel, and Francie as they theorize about the whereabouts of their friend April, played by freshman Kechante Baker, who disappeared. April’s opening monologue—an explanation of her psychology project about female serial killers—sets the scene for the audience, providing them the opportunity to psychoanalyze the characters as the play progresses.  

Hazel and Francie are at each other’s throats after April’s disappearance. Hazel, sophomore Mayela Squires, is torn over her best friend’s disappearance, and is determined to find out what happened, no matter what it takes. Francie, sophomore Emma Devine, is apathetic to this and only wishes to take down Hazel, who she is convinced wants to be popular and just like Francie. Gretta, freshman Chase Anichini, is in the middle of this brawl—trying to calm both sides, while also taking care of herself and her inner turmoil.  

Scripts in hand, the cast of “Dear” interacted with their set and props, using pantomime, a sort of miming, when necessary. Production Stage Manager Marcus Class, a senior, and Assistant Director Julia Cooke, a junior, assisted Friedman through the production.  

“I think it gives more opportunities for the actors to dive into that character work when you’re able to move around when you’re able to better visualize the space,” Cooke said. “From a directing perspective, it was more of a challenge because… you also have to deal with props and costumes and all that, but again it’s more exciting because you only have that much time to do all that. I enjoy it.” 

The second staged reading of the night was “The Aliens” by Pulitzer Prize winner Anne Baker. Baldwin Wallace Assistant Professor of Directing Rene Copeland directed, with Hannah Hodge, an Emerson College graduate, in the role of assistant director and sophomore Kelsey Malone as production stage manager. 

“The Aliens,” tells the story of KJ, played by senior Nathan Wasinski and Jasper, freshman Andrew Timmins, as they sit in the back patio of a coffee shop in Vermont. The two best friends spend this time talking to each other about their daily lives. That is

Alexis Watkins

until they meet Evan, sophomore Evan Vay, a 17-year-old worker at the coffee shop whose patio they are frequenting.   

KJ and Jasper relay their life experiences and advice to Evan, vowing to teach him everything they know. The play follows this blossoming friendship and explores love and loss, and how both are intertwined to create the fabric of life—one that is worth living.  

Contrasting “Dear,” the cast of “The Aliens” used minimal props and no set to convey this story, relying on voice and movement to communicate their emotions and connect to the audience.  This allowed for many instances of prolonged silence—moments that the audience was encouraged to embrace. In addition to this, Copeland challenged the audience to use its imagination to mentally set the scene. The stage directions, read by freshman Mugs Johnson, aided this endeavor. 

According to Johnson, the stage directions are a way to help the audience feel more immersed in the staged reading.  

“I heard this first from René, the director,” Johnson said. “She sort of described the stage directions as the author’s voice coming through…. And that’s what I hope that the audience got to is that this is sort of the author coming through to the stage and adding their own personal touch.” 

Both plays offered the audience, as well as the cast and crew, an opportunity to explore the complex topics of life, friendship, and death.