By Kelly Dickey
The Herald Bulletin
---- — ANDERSON — The last Anderson University student written production to hit the stage before its theatre program is cut is a classic "whodunit" with a twist.
“Bother” opens with main character Nina sitting in an interrogation room. She’s suspected of murdering her husband and the rest of the play focuses on piecing together what really happened and who’s responsible.
“It’s technically a whodunit,” writer Emily Farris said. “There are a lot of moments about spousal abuse and exploring elements of that.”
“Bother” runs 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 2:30 p.m. Sunday at Byrum Hall. Tickets are $5 and can be purchased at the Byrum Hall Box Office.
Director Ronald Johnstone said the play is a whodunit and melodrama in one. Farris wrote well-rounded characters, he said, that tell the story from different perspectives, causing the audience to wonder what the truth really is.
“They’re all people who have a journey,” he said. “…They’re all touched by violence in some way. Are these people projecting on her?”
The story flows between the night of the murder and the interrogation, and makes the audience wonder not only who the perpetrator is, but also if Nina was even abused.
Farris, who is a junior theater major with a writing complementary major, said she wrote “Bother” for her senior project. Since Anderson University is cutting theater as a major for incoming students, Johnstone urged Farris to get her play on stage this year.
It took Farris three weeks to write the first draft. Four months and five drafts later, she’s anxious to see the final product on stage.
“It’s always very different going from reading it to seeing it,” she said. “You go from what you see in your head to seeing it in front of you.”
Farris had previously written during Insomniac Theatre, a workshop by student-run company Wisdom Tooth Theatre. At Insomniacs, students write and produce one-scene productions within 24 hours.
She said she’s written 18 productions at Insomniacs, and she’s acted in four and stage managed three shows at AU.
The time span has allowed Farris to expand her talents and her vision.
“It’s long-term, so you get a lot more feedback,” she said. “It’s a much higher creative process.”
In his 18 years at AU, Johnstone said only six original student plays have been produced.
Farris is the real deal, he said, and this production will put her in a position to perhaps pick up an agent and distributor. Student-produced plays offer the opportunity to originate roles, whereas students, actors and the audience already have certain expectations for classics like William Shakespeare productions.
“Bother” is Johnstone’s last AU play since the university decided to cut the theater as a program because of financial challenges and declining enrollment.
Johnstone said he has mixed emotions about leaving AU, but ending his time at the school with a student-written production is the best scenario possible.
“I love developing these things,” he said. “That first production is always instrumental in how a play is formed on the stage.”
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