11th annual Life & Literature Series to showcase original student work

Although it has evolved in more than a decade of shows, the production stays true to its roots.

When: Thursday, Friday, Saturday at 7:30 p.m., Sunday at 2 p.m. < br/> Where: Corner Playhouse

Heather Carver remembers the start of the annual Life & Literature Performance Series 11 years ago, when she had to rise between performances in the blare of a spotlight and personally introduce each segment.

“I would say that it has transformed a bit, definitely in the area of production,” says Carver, the artistic director and founder of the series. “Over 11 years, it’s gone … to sitting down with an actual evening with lights and sound and design.”

This weekend’s installment of the ever-improving series will yet again allow students to showcase their own work. Performers will present segments ranging from adaptations of lesser-known stories to personal narratives they otherwise couldn’t perform.

“We find it an exciting way to start the season,” Carver says. “It’s more of an area where people can create more of their own work than sometimes they’re able to do with the rest of the season.”

The concept of expanding the platform for student performers brought Carver’s idea from the florescent-lit stage of a classroom to the grandeur of a theater and is still relevant today.

“(It is) all kinds of writing, creating and performance that really needed its own space,” Carver says. “Lots of times those students (in class) are interested in finding a wider audience.”

This year’s show features a number of diverse performances, including a personal narrative from a Kenyan graduate student and a solo performance script based on body image.

“It was a good chance for me to have a venue to share a little bit about what I had written,” Melissa Jackson Burns, a graduate student who will also perform a short story by Shirley Jackson, says. “It’ll be a really good chance to … see how the audience responds to it so I can continue to work on it in the future.”

Because of the show’s personal angle, audience members will get a rare glimpse into each performer’s own experiences.

“Through the years, we’ve had people who … might be in plays that have a subject area, but they might not be able to talk about that subject area,” Carver says. “It’s really empowering for students to be able to perform their own work in this way.”

Although performers have experienced a time machine of evolving stage technology and lighting, one facet of the series has stayed constant since its inception.

“I think the success is in the students themselves and the passion that they have in performing this work,” Carver says. “They have much more feeling that this is my work, my story, a place that I can do something.”

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