This week, the third installment of Muhlenberg’s Mnemonic Theatre Festival premiered. Run Glue Tree Pour Dive: A Re-Membering was conceived and directed by Drew Richardson, visiting professor of theatre, and created by its ensemble in the genre of devised theatre. The cast of six featured Irene Keeney ’23 as Run, Lucie Hopkins ’21 as Glue, Cailyn Murray ’23 as Tree, Bekka Broyles ’22 as Pour, Sandy McInerney ’23 as Dive, and Hannah Kulbitsky ’24 as Fix. Broyles also played and composed solo piano underscoring for the piece.
The play was performed virtually, mostly live over Zoom, with a pre-recorded introduction. In the new world of Zoom theatre, this blend is not unique, but many of the other ways the production used Zoom were inventive.
The first of these was the inclusion of essentially two audiences for the piece. One of these audiences watched the production over a livestream. Audience members could also choose to be part of the participation audience, which was on the Zoom call with the actors and stage manager. At certain moments in the show, they would have their cameras turned on by the stage manager and became part of the show. Hopkins, who played Glue, was extremely excited by the inclusion of the audience, saying “It really felt closer to live, in-person theatre, than I had felt, and I really liked that. I really liked having people commenting and being on the call with us, it just felt very real. It was awesome.”
In addition, the show did not hide from its virtual setting, but rather embraced it, clearly displaying its green screens and using fun patterns as background to reflect the thought processes of the characters in an engaging way. They also made use of different webcams and camera angles to create some stage magic of the transformation of objects in one scene, which was creative and offered a new angle to the piece.
Devised theatre is quite different from typical theatrical productions with a script, and the ensemble used that to their advantage, taking a broad concept from Richardson and working from there. The process began with the cast trying to figure out what each character would be, largely with guidance from Richardson’s physical theatre background. Hopkins explained that the cast “all tried being Run and Glue and Tree and Pour and Dive for a week or two, and we tried moving in the way we thought these characters would.”
Throughout the play, the collaboration and work between the members of the ensemble was clear. They had great banter with each other, improvising naturally, and Hopkins emphasized how crucial this was to the piece saying, “I think what was so useful about the process is that we really did develop a safe ensemble space together pretty early on, so we all felt supported and accepted in giving our ideas out.”
Each cast member got the chance to bring ideas to the table. Hopkins added, “We would use everything, and that was something that was really cool about devising. You don’t have to come up with the best ideas, it’s literally whatever happens, and then you use it to build something new.” They used small moments, little “mistakes,” and even games to help shape the story of the piece.
Run Glue Tree Pour Dive: A Re-Membering was a wonderful mix of absurdly fun comedy and heartfelt moments. Each of the actors were clearly having a blast with the production, which made the piece even more enjoyable for the audience to watch. It was a unique experience for both the cast and the audience, and it could have been a completely different production if the circumstances were different.
“This play wouldn’t be the same if any single one of us was a different person,” Hopkins said. “If he had cast just one other person differently, we would have a completely different show because of how intrinsic we are as people and as creators to what the show turned out to be… We are the show, and the show is literally made from us and the random ideas we got in the middle of rehearsal.”