Arts, On Campus, Arts Features

‘New Voices’ Discuss Playwriting, BC Culture

Hookup culture, Jesuit values, abortion, and the afterlife are just a few issues touched upon in The Things We Do and Get It Together, two original student plays brought to life on stage by the Boston College theatre department as a part of New Voices. This is the first time the theatre department has staged New Voices in five years.

Written by Michael Quinn, MCAS ’19, Get It Together observes the intimate interaction between two reunited high school acquaintances at a raging party in southeastern Pennsylvania. In the privacy of a spare bedroom, before they hook up, the characters address their lives trajectories. The two characters discuss relationships, intimacy, and marijuana use, and they touch on the sensitive subject of abortion in the height of the play, when the female character creates a scenario involving a fictional pregnancy for the boy to respond to.

Meanwhile, Taylor Badoyen’s (MCAS ’19) existentialist play takes place in an alternate realm where three strangers work together to earn entrance to a “gate.” Bayoden’s characters find themselves in what she refers to as “cycles,” where there is always one person who has forgotten everything about their identity and must rely on the other characters to rediscover it. While leaving much of the meaning of the play open to interpretation, Badoyen acknowledges the overtly religious imagery associated with a gate and intentionally invokes this image to spur consideration of the audience members’ own views.

At first glance, the two plays seem as though they could not be more different: Quinn’s exists in the material world and addresses the relationship between two human beings, while Badoyen’s focuses on the individual’s self-concept in an ambiguous setting—but the concepts behind Get It Together and The Things We Do both take root in BC culture.

“I think [BC] is a good place for an artist because there is a very clear dominant culture and I think the role of the artist is to challenge the popular culture or the mainstream,” Quinn said.

Beyond the hook-up culture, Quinn discussed how BC students tend to be closed off emotionally, especially males. This affected the way Quinn approached writing the characters for his work. Quinn endowed the play with a strong female voice in order to create an open dialogue and express his views, since he believes such a tactic resonates more with femininity.

Badoyen looked to the Catholic identity of BC to write The Things We Do. Badoyen’s personal spiritual journey served as the inspiration—her freshman year was characterized by a lack of knowledge about BC’s Jesuit identity. Born in the tropical paradise of Maui, Hawaii, and raised in Las Vegas, Nev., Badoyen believes the laid-back nature of the West Coast caused her to put off seriously addressing her spirituality prior to attending BC.

She made sure to leave the question of faith up to the audience, however, citing her friends of many faiths and philosophies as a guide for posing important questions of mortality. Although she admits there is a plethora of religious imagery in the piece, Badoyen made sure to leave room for each individual audience member to insert their own views into the play.

“I’m sure that there are people like me who don’t come into BC with the Jesuit mindest,” she said. “I think this play might spur a thought [for them].”

Quinn relates Get It Together to his spirituality and the religious traditions of BC as well. Quinn, who attended a Jesuit Catholic high school before coming to BC, discussed the disconnect between the Jesuit tradition of reflection and how people make their individual choices. While some students may find it easy to reflect on academic and religious principles in class, they often fail to apply the same introspection to their private lives.

“I see a lot of people with ashes on their foreheads, but I don’t see a lot of people saying, ‘Is it good for me to go out and get [wasted] and have sex with this girl I don’t want to have sex with?’” Quinn said.

Aside from responding to the notorious BC bubble, the two artists pulled inspiration from their personal lives for their plays as well. Quinn described himself as a “delayed mirror” when writing the play, reflecting all of the influences of his surroundings throughout his life. For the piece, he incorporated lessons learned from a previous tumultuous relationship and the pressure he feels in the first few years of adulthood. Quinn’s characters address the crushing pressure of responsibility that accompanies the freedom of their newly acquired autonomy as 19-year-olds. Quinn also felt that This Is Our Youth, a Kenneth Lonergan play he was directing around the time he was writing Get It Together, largely inspired the topic of the play. Quinn responded to the unfamiliar Manhattan elite rich kids of This Is Our Youth by creating characters that were familiar to him. An admirer of Lonergan’s use of dialogue to guide his plays, Quinn replicated the use of italics to direct emphasis and interaction between characters—the production’s driving force.

Badoyen also called upon the work of her favorite playwright to garner inspiration for writing The Things We Do. She cites Samuel Beckett’s tragic comedies as influencing the dark, mysterious nature of her play. Although her play does not fall under the tragic comedy genre, Badoyen admires Beckett’s ability to make people think through his work. Beckett’s Waiting for Godot was the largest single work that inspired her style of writing, although she regards Hamlet as her favorite play—she chuckled while recalling Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead, a comedy that examines the secondary characters’ reactions to the shocking events of the iconic play. An English major, Badoyen views poetry as the intersection between literature and theatre and believes that the many poems she has encountered throughout her academic career may have influenced The Things We Do as well.

Despite posing questions that may leave the audience with lasting thoughts to contemplate, the plays were written in a surprisingly short amount of time—just four days for Quinn and 24 hours for Badoyen. Badoyen described a long day locked in her bedroom, typing away for hours and only taking short breaks for food. The Things We Do was born of a “word splurge” where the playwright free-writes a few intriguing words to gain momentum, a method Badoyen swears by when undertaking any creative writing project. Sure to stay focused, Badoyen shut out the outside world by turning off her Wi-Fi and turning on the “angsty” classical stylings of Polish composer Andre Tchaikowsky.

Quinn took refuge in a cozy cafe to write, watching as bodies bustled by on the Philadelphia streets in front of him. Because Get It Together takes place in Philly, Quinn felt it necessary to immerse himself in the familiarity of his native surroundings to write the play. Although a huge fan of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia—Quinn attended the same high school as Rob McElhenney, who plays Mac on the popular show—Quinn believes television and movies often offer an inaccurate portrayal of his hometown. Part of the reason he decided to set his play in Philadelphia was for the purpose of responding to the inaccuracy of these descriptions. He incorporates his personal experiences from growing up in the city with obscure regional references that may be inaccessible to some who haven’t explored the city. Much like Badoyen, Quinn spent more time thinking about the play than actually writing it, jotting down little epiphanies he would have while going about his day.

Writing and submitting the play to the theatre department was not the end of the journey for Quinn and Badoyen. The plays were submitted and reviewed just after Spring Break last year. Once selected, the playwrights began a grueling revision process that didn’t end until the week before curtain call for Badoyen.

The two student writers also played a role in casting and rehearsal. Both were present for the auditions of their plays. Quinn looked for a genuine connection between actors when casting—something the audience would see and relate to. Although the casting directors settled on a freshman boy and a senior girl for the roles, Quinn believes the age difference did not affect the duo’s ability to connect on stage. Badoyen was interested to see how each actor interpreted the script during auditions—there was hardly any context provided in the excerpt from the script that alluded to what the production would look like on stage. Badoyen selected actors who filled in the gaps and made the characters their own.

Quinn and Badoyen were also available for questions during the rehearsal process. Although they wanted the actors to make characters their own, they responded to questions about the scripts to provide clarification for the actors. Their visions are further reflected in the stage design and effects.

“I tried to design my play with my stage directions, which is inadvertently putting my hand in the design concept without actually infringing on the designer’s domain,” Badoyen said.

This resulted in a rather barren stage with hardly any set pieces for The Things We Do. Quinn, on the other hand, ensured the actors had props to make the play “hyperrealistic,” placing beer bottles in their hands and inserting a scene involving a fidgety chapstick application. Quinn also had very specific ideas about what the music for the play would be like, settling on “That Easy” by Yellow Days, a mellow indie jam, as the outro song.

Despite having a clear voice in their plays, both Badoyen and Quinn wanted to leave “holes” for the director, actors, and audience to fill in during the play. Both writers sang the praises of Scott T. Cummings—a professor in the theatre department at BC and the director of both plays—and the casts. Quinn added, however, that he doesn’t believe in telling the audience how to view or interpret a play. Quinn thinks the very concept of a director’s note is strange—the script itself should be enough to explain a play.

Clearly, playwriting is a rather formidable process that many students may find daunting, but Quinn and Badoyen are not the average students. Their vibrant personalities shine through each detail of their plays and they used their voices to pose questions about important on campus topics by taking their own experiences and extrapolating them to a more universal mindset.

“[Through playwriting], I can ask a question and I don’t have to have the answer, and sometimes asking the question gets the point through enough,” Quinn said.

Featured Image by Katie Genirs / Assistant Photo Editor

February 18, 2018