The Daily Tar Heel

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Saturday June 10th

Senior Ben French debuts ‘Tiny Frightened Animals’

Fortunately, nothing had to happen to French for the two to make something out of it. French will debut his first play, “Tiny Frightened Animals,” a culmination of the contents of that file, at the Station at Southern Rail Restaurant and Bar in Carrboro on April 23, 25 and 26, with Chelena directing.

Auditions for “Tiny Frightened Animals” will be held today and Thursday, where they will look for potential actors, actresses and creative team members.

Although the play hasn’t been performed yet, French has already won multiple awards for the script, including the Dramatists Guild of America’s Young Playwright Award, the Sam Selden Award at UNC and the Bill Hallberg Award for Creative Writing.

“I thought that the poetics of the script were just stunning,” Chelena said. “The way that Ben has rendered this script is like a book of poetry — it is beautiful and it is strange.”

The show focuses on a boy living in rural Georgia and his struggle to balance pleasing his family with his need to leave the toxic town.

French, a Columbus, Ga. native, said he was inspired by the quirky things about the South.

“I want to make sure we bring those onto the stage and show people what that’s all about,” he said.

The play is written in the magical realism genre and goes beyond merely telling the story of a small southern town.

“There is a lot in the play that kind of shows that it’s something that we want to hold on to,” French said. “That there’s a little bit of magic we all want to hold on to.”

The play will be held behind the Station. Chelena said the outdoor space mimics the landscape of the town in the play.

“I think if the place is perfect then everything will fall into place. I think the Station was perfect in terms of authenticity of environment.”

The Station’s space will also create an intimate environment for those watching the play.

“It’s not so much how (the audience) will interact,” French said. “It is just making sure they are fully invested in the world of the play while it’s happening.”

Dramatic art lecturer Mark Perry taught French his freshman year at UNC.

“I think Ben has a strong sense of compassion and a strong sense of empathy that pervades his play,” Perry said. “He is precocious in his understanding of dramaturgy and how plays work, so I talk to him like a peer, not like a student I am guiding along.”

Chelena hopes audiences will leave feeling a sense of wonder.

“I would love to make something that is totally inviting, but also something that people walk away from saying, ‘I don’t think I’ve seen anything like that.’”


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