No Michigan student is a stranger to the flurry of flyers and enthusiastic cries on the Diag at rush hour. In their opening scene, the cast members of the Writers’ Showcase play off that, promising everything from bikini bodies, to a lifetime supply of pizza, to Donald Trump’s blood. They create the zany from the familiar location of the Diag.
The Writers’ Showcase, a collaborative project spearheaded by LSA freshman Christine Covode and LSA sophomore Maggie Lott, features student-written works adapted to the stage. The scenes mix drama and comedy, with a focus on themes that appeal to the average University of Michigan student.
They address first loves, obsession, frat-bros, turtlenecks and football players, all in the space of an hour and a half celebration of undergraduate writing. Some pieces are clearly written for the stage, while others are poetry or spoken word, which have a more abstract narrative outline.
Covode and Lott brought the idea of a Writer’s Showcase from their high school in Evanston, IL, which has a yearly production that is written, directed and acted by students. Both participated as performers and now have decided to found and co-direct a similar project here at the University.
The directors started the process by soliciting writing from peers and writing some of their own scenes as well.
“We asked for pretty much any type of written work, poetry, dialogues, monologues, narratives, anything. A lot of them were scenes. Maggie wrote a few. I wrote a few. We co-wrote some of them together, ” Covode said.
The process of putting together the showcase has been completely student-led and flexible, allowing space for dialogue and revision between students.
“The whole thing is pretty much a collaborative process. We ask our crew ‘what do you guys see in this scene?’ We are not going to sit there and say ‘this is about this and that is it,’” Covode said.
The rehearsal process reflects this mentality, as Covode and Lott sometimes take a backseat to allow actors and writers to take agency over their decisions regarding how they would like to convey the emotion and story of their work.
The showcase mixes physical comedy with more still and slow moments of spoken word to simply honor the visceral emotion of the writing.
“We develop an interpretation as a group and we just kind of stage it out. Some of them are just people standing on a stage and some are more acted out,” Lott said.
The technical aspects of the show are minimal. There are hardly any sets and the actors wear simple uniform costumes that allow them to play different roles in different scenes. Lott and Covode intend to celebrate student writing through stage adaptation and although they value their hardworking and imaginative crew of performers, they hope to convey a message that goes beyond the humble scope of the production.
Covode said through participating in Writers’ Showcase, she realized the heart of the projectwas the work.
“You are so small compared to what this person is saying. It’s a tribute to this person’s writing.”
Through the empowerment of collaboration and the vulnerability that comes with letting your own writing fall into the hands of others, The Writers’ Showcase creates an honest and dynamic community.