Although the pandemic has posed countless challenges to local performing artists, the University’s LAB! Theatre is rolling with the punches.
On Friday at 6:30 p.m., anyone and everyone interested is welcome to attend LAB!’s second Zoom reading of "One Foot Forward, One Foot Back," a play written by UNC senior Stuart Wilson.
“This event will be covering the second draft of my play,” Wilson said. “We will choose volunteers in the Zoom call to read for certain characters. Then, we open it to comments, questions and feedback.”
The readings of "One Foot Forward, One Foot Back" are a part of LAB!’s commission project, which has been helpful to Wilson and other student playwrights as they develop their scripts.
“These reads really help to see where the play is going,” Wilson said. “People have brought up parts of my characters’ psyches that even I did not recognize. It is certainly an involved creative process.”
Anish Pinnamaraju, a senior at UNC and one of LAB!’s executive directors, said LAB!’s commission project has achieved its primary goal: to help talented student playwrights in the UNC community foster their ideas and put their work on stage.
Pinnamaraju said he has been pleasantly surprised by Zoom’s functionality for the project.
“With each of these play readings, we hope to get feedback from readers about what works and what doesn't about this script that is still being developed,” Pinnamaraju said. “That doesn’t necessarily mean we have to be in person. In fact, if people want to just drop in for a little bit, they don't need to go out of their way and walk to a room.”
Similarly, for Wilson, reading his play over Zoom has had its advantages.
“I think the greatest benefit of Zoom is just the degree of communication it allows,” Wilson said. “In testing Zoom, LAB! is collaborating with a lot of other student leader organizations, which is really cool.”
Wilson said that the primary theme of "One Foot Forward, One Foot Back" revolves around post-grad anxieties and growing disillusions of nostalgia and academia.
“It’s about these two college students, Mason and Robin,” Wilson said. “Basically, they return to Mason’s hometown to do an oral history survey. It’s really this archetypal, run-down small town.”
As a senior double-majoring in Russian studies and comparative literature, Wilson initially saw himself on a path to pursuing academia and becoming a professor. "One Foot Forward, One Foot Back" has served as an outlet for him to explore his second thoughts about his future.
“I slowly realized that the environment of academia itself is sort of self-aggrandizing,” Wilson said. “In college, I’ve had this struggle of getting out of my comfort zone, but also really wanting to stay inside my comfort zone. So, I guess this play is a way of sort of unpacking that relationship.”
Allyx Miles, a junior at UNC and production manager for the reading series, said she has felt a strong connection to the play throughout the readings.
“The play is about young adults coming to terms with adulthood and learning to move on,” Miles said. “To me, this is especially relevant because as a 20-year-old, I have to start considering my future, including who and what I want to be there.”
Miles recognizes that there are drawbacks to Zoom. She misses sitting down with her production partners and enjoying a good show together.
But Pinnamaraju encourages anybody who wants to get involved with campus theater to take a chance and sign up for this event.
“There’s no audition or pressure to be an incredible actor,” Pinnamaraju said. You’re just reading and giving a character a voice to help a playwright get an understanding of how to improve.”
Anyone can sign up by visiting The LAB!’s Facebook page. Miles said the Zoom link for the event will also be posted the day of the event.
“And that’s just about it,” Pinnamaraju said. “It's really low commitment, low stakes, and you get the opportunity to flex some acting muscles because you get the opportunity to read.”
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