Theatre Students Collaborate with Local High School to Create Original Play

group of students in a school holding signs

Camille Thomas, a senior double majoring in Theatre and Arts & Humanities, found a way to combine her interest in social justice with her passion for the arts by working with the East Lansing High School Student Black Union to devise an original social justice theatre piece for the school’s multicultural festival.

After working with East Lansing High School for her Civic Engagement course during the Spring 2017 semester, Thomas realized how much she enjoyed working with high school students and wanted to continue that relationship. So last summer, she met with the high school principal before deciding to work with the Black Student Union to create an original theatre piece to be presented at East Lansing High School’s multicultural festival.

Leading up to the performance, which was held last month, Thomas worked with the students on different theatre lessons from developing plots and characters to writing the script.

MFA Acting candidate Kristy Allen joined the project in December, helping Thomas work with the students to write the script. Allen and Thomas wrote the skeleton of the script and the students made edits and ultimately ending up taking the lead and writing it mostly themselves.

Thomas described the students as being very socially aware, stating “they wanted to write about intersectionality, stereotypes, toxic-masculinity, and race.”

The show, which opened on February 26, was about a town where potholes were a major issue affecting the lives of its citizens.

“The potholes serve as an allegory for different oppressions that people face,” Thomas said. “At the end of the show, the problem wasn’t really solved, but the intention of the show was to open up the conversation to the public.”

For Allen, the experience of working with the high school students was an opportunity to grow as a director and challenge herself as an artist.

“I knew having the responsibility of crafting a show would help me develop my process, while still being in an environment with mentorship,” Allen said. “This experience has been invaluable. It has forced me to research and reach out to my professors to better understand how to direct a successful show.”

The experience taught Thomas to trust the process. “Along the way, I didn’t always know where the show was headed, but I trusted my team and we made something amazing,” she said. “I hope the students learned the power that they hold to make a change and stand up for what they believe in.”