‘Scratch Play’ scratches surface

January-term class writes, produces original show for the ‘public domain’ to laugh, enjoy

photo by Doug Donald

by Amber Krieg

The White Rabbit, The Cowardly Lion, Humpty Dumpty and Peter Pan were just some of the characters that took the stage on Feb. 10-12 in St. Joseph Auditorium. These characters, among others, formed the cast of the new play “Public Dilemma.” While many students returned to the classroom this past January for tests and studying for J-Term, a small group of Loras students took on an entirely new creative challenge. The students of “Theatre Production Through Workshop” started from scratch to write, stage, cast and perform an original play in a month’s time. The result? A two act play exploring what could happen if a copyrighted character wrongly entered the public domain.

The play follows the story of Maryanne, a character from the fictional television show “The Real Nannies of Chicago,” who wrongfully enters the Public Domain as the result of a glitch. Aided by Tom Sawyer and Paul Bunyan, Maryanne travels through the Public Domain in an attempt to return home and defeat the evil mastermind, The Puzzler. Along the way, Maryanne encounters a number of other familiar characters who are available for public use due to copyright laws. The idea to use the Public Domain as the setting for the story resulted from one of the many class brainstorming sessions, and the final script was developed by all eleven members of the J-Term class.

“The process of creating this show was actually really hard!” said first-year Caroline Breitbach, a student from the J-Term. “We started with three really solid ideas, and once we narrowed it down to our choice, it took a lot of time fleshing out the plot and conflict. But we all worked together really well.”

Though the class was led and supervised by Loras College’s own Doug Donald, the majority of the work was done by the students, and the workload for this show proved to be rather ambitious. Directed by senior Benjamin Miller, the members of the cast built two sets, constructed a flight of stairs and created video elements that were periodically incorporated into the show (a project that was headed by senior Travis Exline). All of the roles in the show were filled by members of the original class, resulting in some students filling as many as three roles during the final production. Though there was stress associated with all the work that had to be done, Breitbach spoke towards the class’s ability to channel that energy.

“Though there were people who maybe only wanted to act or write, it was a class that made you explore all the aspects of a production. Publicity, set design, costuming, acting, and so on and so on.”

In the few short weeks from the beginning of the class until closing night, the creative minds behind “Public Dilemma” worked diligently to create their original show, a project Breitbach describes as “a really cool learning experience,” despite the time constraint.

“I thought that with shortened time, we wouldn’t be able to create that cast bond that most productions do, but because of our situation and love of theatre, we’ve all grown super close and it’s made the production all the more fun.”

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