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Student-written play premieres tonight

Photo: Student-written play premieres tonight (Erin Hull)
The Collective Dress Rehearsal

Two years ago, Catya McMullen drafted a one-act play.

After revisions, readings, additions and edits, that play is finally ready for the stage.

McMullen’s play “The Collective” is the first student-written work to be produced in the Center for Dramatic Arts in two years. The LAB! Theatre production premieres tonight.

A dramatic art major and creative writing minor, McMullen — a senior from New York City — has written two other plays, but called them both terrible.

“The Collective,” she said, is her baby.

After going to see PlayMa?kers Repertory Company’s 2009 performance of Tennessee Williams’ “The Glass Menagerie,” McMullen was inspired.

She began thinking about personal memory and the idea for “The Collective” developed.

“I don’t totally know where it came from,” McMullen said with a laugh.

With help from UNC staff and the English and comparative literature department, McMullen said that her play has grown up on the UNC campus.

“It evolved organically,” she said.

McMullen said that she drew all of her characters from people she knew and from herself.

But after a while, the characters began to develop into their own distinct selves.

“They are now their own people,” she said.

The play grew in length — from one act to two — and the number of characters increased.

“It’s a play about memory and connections and human experience,” said Ra?mey Mize, who plays the character Frankie.

Frankie is a fast-talking, quirky 19-year-old at the center of the plot.

Her conversations with her therapist explore each of the characters’ memories.

“It is focused on the concept that, by listening to you, I learn about me,” McMullen said.

Director Jess Adams said that, though “The Collective” is the largest show she has ever worked on, it has been a pleasure to execute.

“I immediately fell in love with it,” Adams said.

Through months and months of rehearsal time, Adams said that she and McMullen have become best friends.

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“There has never been a time where we’ve clashed,” she said.

The two girls’ friendship never affected their professional work — even as McMullen’s script went through drastic changes.

“Working with a playwright that is your best friend can be incredibly helpful or not,” she said. “In our case it was incredibly helpful.”

It was difficult to take a back seat in the production of her play, McMullen said. But she acknowledged the importance of allowing the creativity of others to blossom.

“She realizes it’s my job to direct and it’s her job to write,” Adams said.

Nicola Vann — who plays Frankie’s therapist, Jude — echoed the benefits of working with McMullen.

“(It’s) cool to have the mind it was born out of right there with you,” Vann said.

“It’s her piece, but also it is absolutely a project for all of us.”

Vann said that McMullen was always open to their suggestions.

And now, as the play nears its opening night, McMullen said that she can look back at its lengthy development and appreciate it.

“The whole community was invested in the project,” she said. “It was a really, really, really cool process.

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