“Priceless Gem: An Athlete Story,” is the work-in-progress of one current and one former UNC dramatic art student and assistant professor of dramatic art David Navalinsky. Actors will perform a reading that depicts life as a student athlete at UNC, using a script based on anonymous interviews with more than 30 athletes.
Navalinsky got the idea for the play while teaching Drama 160, a course that has historically had high athlete enrollment. He started teaching at UNC in 2011, when parts of the athletic scandal were first coming to light amid an NCAA investigation. Navalinsky said he wanted to help people understand the athletes’ perspectives with the play.
“The great thing about theater is it can provide a voice for people who don’t necessarily have a voice. Through all those initial articles and news reports, the students were the only ones that didn’t have a voice,” he said.
Jackson Bloom, co-writer of the play and senior dramatic art major, said the timing of the reading with Wednesday’s release of Wainstein’s report was not purposeful.
“We discussed whether this was the best time for the reading,” Bloom said. “We thought about postponing. But really, this isn’t about the scandal. This isn’t some sexy expose about literacy among athletes or paper classes, so we feel that this is good timing, but we’re not seeking to capitalize on that.”
The play is based on approximately 30 interviews Navalinsky conducted with athletes on a variety of sports teams. The team condensed the interviews into a script that features a football player, a male swimmer, a female basketball player and a softball player.
“We see them on the field, we see them on the court, but I don’t think people really understand and what they go through to get there,” Navalinksy said.
After the reading, there will be a Q&A session. Ali Evarts, co-writer of the play and 2014 UNC graduate, said she hopes audience feedback will add to the play.
“We want to hear people’s feedback so that we can continue to form this play into something that is really powerful, and because of that we want a wide variety of opinions and experiences,” she said.
Evarts said presenting the challenges athletes face in an artistic way will allow people to see them in a different light.
“Theater at its core is about making people think and transforming communities,” she said. “So we really felt that this piece could do just that, transform the community and make everyone think a little bit deeper than just the headlines, and think about the actual individuals involved and empathize with them.”
Sophomore Lindsey Jung said it’s important to hear all sides of the athletic scandal.
“I don’t think athletes are getting a fair chance to have their say, just because even from a student’s perspective, I don’t really know what athletes go through,” Jung said. “So I’m sure professors and people who don’t even go here don’t know their struggles.”