Spectrum Theatre Company emphasizes collaboration and creation in play devising process


Noah Frick-Alofs/Daily Senior Staffer

Allyson Snyder’s devised work, “Roots and Wings,” follows three characters in their journeys to find a sense of home. Her piece is one of three short plays in Spectrum Theatre Company’s “Collaboration and Creation Series.”

Andrea Michelson, Arts & Entertainment Editor

In Shanley Pavilion, a chalkboard drawing displays what home means to three characters — a house, a bunny, a slice of pizza. The backdrop sets the scene for Communication third-year Allyson Snyder’s play “Roots and Wings,” a devised work that is part of Spectrum Theatre Company’s “Collaboration and Creation Series.”

The “Collaboration and Creation Series” will run in Shanley Thursday and Friday at 7 p.m. and Saturday at 2 p.m. The series includes three short plays inspired by the ideas of directors and brought to fruition through a collaborative devising process. Each play is complemented by an art installation, like Snyder’s chalkboard.

Snyder said the whole rehearsal room comes together to write a script in the devising process. Usually the director brings a “seed” to the table to start the process. In the case of Snyder’s piece, that starting point was the idea of home.

“When you do devised work, you find this specificity that makes things more universal in a way,” Snyder said. “These unique people in the room have stories about their grandmothers and their childhoods and their friends from home … Having all of those pieces to write a play is so much more powerful than having just one person and their own information.”

Communication sophomore Theo Janke-Furman said he petitioned to produce the “Collaboration and Creation Series” because it was a unique opportunity to oversee the devising process. He said most productions on campus follow a more linear production process: actors act, directors direct and that’s the end of the story.

The devising process allows more voices to be heard, Janke-Furman said. When selecting directors for the series, he said it was important that the voices he chose were diverse.

“We were very interested in getting three distinct stories,” Janke-Furman said. “The directors are all cool and unique, and their stories were very important to them. It’s evident that they all had these messages that they wanted to share with the community, and specifically the Northwestern community.”

Communication sophomore Rishi Mahesh said he wants to explore immigration, identity politics and race in comedy in the piece he is directing. His devised work began with those themes and the idea of creating a stand-up comedy set, and evolved into a routine he named “AME%/X72#3ICAN MADE.”

Isabella Noe, another Communication sophomore and director in the “Collaboration and Creation Series,” sparked her devised work with a question: What if she could go back in time and talk to the 14-year-old version of herself?

“Something that I kept thinking about over the summer is how cool it is that I get to be at Northwestern and be in the theater scene here, and be directing my own show that’s also devised,” Noe said. “I thought of how when I was younger, this was absolutely what I dreamed of doing.”

That thought inspired a piece, “Morning Will Come,” that takes place inside the mind of one woman. Noe said she was excited by the prospect of devising a show with a blank canvas — both literal and figurative in this case, as her piece features a mural on the performance space floor — in front of her.

“My favorite part of this process was just hearing from all different kinds of voices in the room, from all different places and all different backgrounds,” Noe said. “You get to make something with all of these other people with really cool ideas.”

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