The premiere of a play offers a rare opportunity to create an entire world where nothing existed before.
Recent graduate Lindsey Brissette helped to fashion such a world as dramaturg for Deported/a dream play.
The production employs music and dance to tell a time-travelling story of friendship in the context of the Armenian genocide, and the action emerges out of the memories and dreams of the lead character.
Brissette’s role gave her access to a brand-new script by award-winning playwright Joyce Van Dyke and a chance to work with a respected, professional director, Judy Braha. The play, which is being co-produced by the Boston Playwrights’ Theatre, is at the Modern Theatre through April 1.
Research brings characters to life
“Most of my work was done before rehearsals started,” said Brissette, who focused on directing in her Theatre studies.
As the dramaturg, she created a blog for the cast – which includes the Sayat Nova Dance Company, professional actors and University students – and the crew,
The blog presented art and videos that illustrated the music, dance, events, and atmosphere of the era, as well as stories about the Armenian genocide.
“I met with Judy Braha, and we talked a lot about her vision for the production,” said Brissette. “My role was to create research and support materials to help the actors in particular have a sense of time and place.”
Brissette attended the first week of rehearsals to listen and answer questions when needed.
“It was fascinating to see how the actors use the material I’d provided to bring these characters to life,” she said.
The ensemble is made up of six Suffolk University students, and the assistant director is a student, Arissara Chounchaisit, who also worked closely with Braha.
“The challenge with this play is the atmosphere,” said Chounchaisit. “A lot of what Judy talked about involves the specific details to creating a dreamy feel, to creating the feeling of ‘floating motion’ the playwright asks for. We did a lot of improvisation with the ensemble to help create those smooth transitions.”
Working with theater professionals like Braha has been a tremendous learning experience for Chounchaisit.
“I knew who she was and her reputation, but it’s been great to work right next to her and absorb her insight and experience.”
As a Theatre major focusing on directing, Chounchaisit says she feels very lucky to have experienced “a wide-ranging mix of styles and directing approaches” in both professional and student productions.
In the past year Chounchaisit also has worked with award-winning director David Gammons on Dr. Faustus and Theatre Department Chair Marilyn Plotkins on the musical Anything Goes.
A taste of professional theater world
Plotkins said that giving undergraduate Theatre students the opportunity to work with professionals has been a very deliberate choice.
“The goal is to help students transition into the professional world,” she said. “Having the Modern Theatre available makes us attractive to professional theaters and offers the students unprecedented opportunities to be exposed to and develop relationships with the professional theater community.”