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Applesauce, Emotion Abounds in Latest Studio 2 Play

The death-by-applesauce plot might sound random, but, as the cast agrees, that's the point of the play. It mirrors the absurdity of real life.

"I had heard of a similar accident, but I guess I got the idea from something small town that could bring a community together," said Annie Alvarez, playwright and senior drama major.

The play takes place in a small town, where the main business is a food factory. After an accident claims the life of an employee, the widow discusses arrangements with the funeral director at a local diner.

Besides expressing her desire for her dead husband to be put to rest in a golden football shaped urn, she and the funeral director discuss their lives and their dreams they haven't fulfilled.

"It seems random, but it's really purposeful," said Melissa Stancil, a senior geography major who plays Sue Ellen, a factory worker who believes her husband took the fatal applesauce swim.

Stancil is one of the four actors in the show. Stancil and Michael Rollins appeared in Alvarez's play "Bee Stings and Barbeques," Katie Brennan acts with the Pauper Players, while Jenny Duncan has her debut in the show.

Also making a debut is director Karmen Helms, a senior drama major, who used her knowledge from her directing class and broke in her directing skills with "Mashed Peas and Broken Dreams." Helms also has acted but feels she is learning a lot from directing.

"I think you learn more from seeing it from this side, there's more you have to think about than when you're acting," Helms said.

Luckily for Helms, she said she felt the material and the cast were great to work with and referred to them as a "go-with-the-flow cast."

"I love the play, it's southern and very open to improvisation and allows to be creative. The cast was open to new ideas and really went with me," Helms said.

Alvarez, a senior drama major, said she was also impressed with the cast. The group met often to discuss the play and the characters, with the actors supplying background information they felt was appropriate for them.

"They did such a good job with teamwork," Alvarez said. "They've created it and made it come alive; they made it theirs."

Teamwork and friendship between the actors, director and those people behind the scenes is apparent as they get ready for rehearsal. Even after watching the play countless times, the director still laughs as the actors deliver their lines.

Like the actors adding aspects to the characters, Alvarez also uses some personal experience when creating them. She draws ideas from people she knows, stories from family members and southern living, which she's gotten a taste for after living in Raleigh since she was a toddler.

"If things happen to me in my life, it's easier to write the character," Alvarez said.

Alvarez started writing her freshman year, mostly one and two act plays, inspired by southern playwrights like Pulitzer Prize recipients Beth Henley and Marsha Norman. She also has acted in some shows and directed "Three Pigeons Inn," a show with Shakespearean monologues and scenes set in Shakespeare's age.

"It was a bit like dinner theater, we served ale to the audience," Alvarez said.

Like the cast, Alvarez said the play can relate to real life and hopes the audience can identify with her characters.

"I hope it reflects human need and how people make meaning in their lives and overcome loss," she said. "The play can be quirky, but I hope the audience can recognize a part of themselves."

"Mashed Peas and Broken Dreams" runs from 8:15 p.m. Oct. 26-29, 4 p.m. Oct. 29 and 5 p.m. Oct. 30 at the Elizabeth Price Kenan Theatre. Admission is $5 or free with a Department of Dramatic Art privilege card.

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The Arts & Entertainment Editor can be reached at artsdesk@unc.edu.