An Eastern Kentucky University Honors Program class has spent this semester traveling in space and time – from the American Civil War to the modern-day battlefields of the Middle East.
Incorporating creative writing, history and theater arts, the 15 Honors Seminar in the Arts students are writing, directing and performing “From Shiloh to Afghanistan,” a collection of six one-act plays. They will present their work on Thursday, May 7, at 8 p.m. in the Black Box Theatre of the EKU Center for the Arts. Admission is free, and tickets may be reserved at firstname.lastname@example.org or picked up at the door. A shuttle will run between the Daniel Boone Statue in front of the Keen Johnson Building and the Center.
The students “invented varied ways to dramatize their generation’s stories,” said Dr. Gaby Bedetti, who co-teaches the class along with Dr. Mason Smith. “The show explores six different ways for theater to break from realism.”
For example, one play moves backward from the end to the beginning. In another, a time-traveling student zaps back to the Battle of Shiloh, where he accidentally kills Gen. U.S. Grant, setting off a chain of events that drastically alter the course of history.
The students read and discussed primary sources, viewed innovative plays and visited the Battle of Perryville site in Boyle County. They “workshopped” their play drafts and consulted with EKU Theatre Director Alana Ghent and Transylvania University’s Michael Dixon, whose new book, “Breaking from Realism: A Map/Quest for the Next Generation,” served as their guide. They also consulted with Travis Martin, founder of EKU’s Veterans Studies program, who suggested the title. (EKU has ranked either first or second nationally for four of the past five years in the “Best for Vets” survey conducted by Military Times.)
The titles of each play, along with a brief synopsis are:
· “An Ignorant Soldier,” in which a student is sent back in time to experience the history he first ignored.
· “Row Your Boat,” where a strangler and a general are trapped in time and space as one struggles to row toward battle, and the other toward safety.
· “Shootin’ the Breeze,” a story of four friends relaxing and enjoying the time they have before battle.
· “Homecoming,” a story that conveys hope and faith to the audience.
· “The Colonel’s Musket,” which tells of a man who when offered a sum of money for a family heirloom, remembers its true meaning.
· “Generations,” a story about three generations with different outlooks on the same conflict.
In addition, a jug band of musicians from the seminar will perform brief interludes between the acts. The presentation concludes with a poem, “A Veteran’s Litany,” delivered by the cast members.
“When the course ends, I hope the students understand a bit more about the Civil War than they did in January,” Smith said, “and that they will have made a serious effort to understand what a veteran feels after being involved in something like this. I think their one-acts all engage the larger questions of what those men and women went through and what it still means to us today.”
Bedetti added that she hopes the students also gain a greater appreciation of “the power of the arts to create empathy and community. We also hope experiencing the research into history, fiction and theatre, and the collaborative process of conceiving, writing and performing plays will engender greater confidence in our Honors students, renewed respect for each other, and a love of risk-taking.”
The class is composed of five freshmen, seven sophomores and three juniors. Some of the students are fulfilling a general education requirement in the arts, others a general requirement in the humanities.
A reception will follow the presentation.