A fraternity brother who doesn’t drink. A multiethnic girl whose hair provides a lesson in identity. A rape victim. A boy coming to terms with his sexuality. What do these characters have in common? They’re all real students at the University. And their tales will all be told onstage this weekend in the student-produced play “What’s Your Story?”
“What’s Your Story?”
Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m.
At Pendleton Room, Michigan Union
Friends and collaborators Mitch Crispell and Robbie Dembo, both LSA juniors, stumbled on the concept behind “What’s Your Story?” after a dinner at Noodles & Co. on State Street last fall.
“Robbie just kept saying, ‘I want to put on a play, I want to put on a play,’ ” Crispell said, “And I was like, ‘Shut up Robbie, you can’t put on a play!’ … (But) then I started thinking about it.”
Outside Noodles, Crispell and Dembo saw a man with a sign asking passersby to share their stories. Inspiration hit: They would create and produce their own play, using stories written and performed by fellow students.
“Everyone has a story, and we’re just telling some of them,” Crispell explained.
“What’s Your Story?” is composed of distinct scenes of anonymously submitted monologues held together by a story-gathering character, B.D. written by Crispell and Dembo, who observes and sometimes comments on the action.
“We’re trying to inspire empathy, show interconnectedness and really inspire people to share and to listen,” said Patricia White, an LSA junior heading the group of student directors working on the show.
“People from different religions, different sexualities, different backgrounds, race and ethnicities” shared a variety of personal experiences, White added.
Fifteen actors will lend their voices and bodies to the stories.
“I really have learned the importance of taking the time to listen to other people and what they have to say,” said actor Olivia Horn, an LSA freshman. Horn will retell two stories — one of her own and one by an anonymous author.
“It was definitely a lot easier for me to get into character (when) I knew it was my story,” Horn said. “(The anonymous piece) was a lot harder because it wasn’t something that I had personally been through, so I had to really reflect on it and put myself in that person’s shoes, moment by moment.”
LSA senior Joel Arnold agreed that empathy is key in the transmission.
“(We’re) going into the show with a mindset that we want to take all that perspective that we gained and give it to other people,” he said.
Arnold will portray a student taking a deeper look at his faith after being diagnosed with a chronic pain condition.
“His big question is, ‘Why would this God that I’ve heard about, the compassionate, benevolent God, let this happen to me?’ ” Arnold said.
Another scene, which White dubbed “Frat Boys,” combines two stories.
“One is this guy who is quite a beer pong champion, and he’s talking about how proud he is as a freshman to be invited by the seniors in his frat to play beer pong … and one guy has never had a drink and is really proud of that,” she said. “We all have that stereotypical frat boy in our mind, but (the scene shows) two really different aspects of that.”
The flow of the storyline links all these disparate stories together, exposing feelings and experiences to which and audience can relate.
“When the lights go up at the end, you will have just seen accounts of emotion … across the spectrum of what people can feel,” Crispell said. “You will have heard about rape, you will have heard about racism, you will have heard about joy and sorrow and relationships and what friendship can do for someone and what hate can do … and hopefully you’ll feel this incredible desire and passion to ask from someone else their story.”