The Corner Playhouse is holding MU’s 13th annual Life and Literature in Performance Series at 7:30 p.m. Sept. 16-19 and at 2 p.m. Sept. 20. The production is known for its unique student adaptations of literature, storytelling and award-winning solo performances. This year, among the series’ features are autobiographical works, poetry and Shakespearean adaptations.
“I love the Life and Literature in Performance Series because it’s a space for storytelling, solo performance and different types of artistic work that you don’t get to see in some more traditional performance kind of plays and musicals that we do on campus,” student director Carrie Winship says. “You can take some different risks than you normally get to take, I think, when you’re working on a play or musical that has a script that is built-in — and Life and Lit allows, you know, a different way of approaching creating this work.”
This year’s theatre season marks the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death, so the cast and crew behind this year’s production are excited to feature performances of about 10 Shakespearean sonnets. These works are derived from what is called the “Dark Lady Sonnets” by many scholars, coming from the second part of Shakespeare’s sonnet cycle.
Artistic director Heather Carver created the series 14 years ago and is looking forward to it serving as a kick-off for the semester.
“I’m really excited that we get to have the Life and Literature Series again here in the theatre department,” Carver says. “It’s just really a fun way to start the semester, to have student-adapted and student-written work be on stage ... This kind of work is often deeply personal, and it’s a really exciting way for our audiences to get up-close and really connected with the power of theatre.”
Carver started the production in hopes of providing a means for work that was not traditionally meant for the stage to be performed. Now, serving as the artistic director, she gets to see students’ work and select what goes into the series.
“By having a space sometimes where someone’s going to express themselves through performance, what you’re providing is exponential,” Carver says. “They find their voice, they find the way they want to perform, and they have the place to (do it). So being able to be the director and create this play for students to express themselves — it’s one of the reasons why I’m an educator. Because I think sometimes students don’t even know themselves when they start on a creative journey, what it is they can really bring. So every year, I get excited about what is going to happen on our stage.”
The creative minds behind the production do most of their work through theatre classes, though you don’t have to be a theatre major to get involved. Despite being only two weeks into the school year, students have poured a lot into their art and are ready for an audience.
In addition to taking in some top-notch acting, the audience of this year’s series can expect to feel a sense of connection to the world of theatre unlike that felt in traditional theatre performances. According to Winship, those involved hope to create a visual and sensory experience around Shakespeare’s sonnets by playing with sound, light, music, costume and character in order to tell a new kind of story.
“I think (the audience) hopefully will come in with a sense of adventure,” Winship says. “It’s going to be maybe a surprising take on some of these sonnets, and I honestly hope they just get an experience. They just react to what we’re doing in some way. They have a response to it. They feel something. They are asking a question.”
Another goal of this year’s performance is to create an intimate relationship between the people in the audience and the actors on stage.
“Some of the performances are really engaging dramatically, but also really funny,” Carver says. “We have people who are really able to tell their stories with wit, grace and humor. Life and Literature is always fun. It’s like a rollercoaster of emotions and I think everybody really appreciates the work that’s going on. Not all the pieces are the same, but when you go through the whole evening, you really will come out of it feeling connected."