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BWW Blog: Introducing Milton

BWW Blog: Introducing Milton

A halfhearted sprinkle of rain drizzles upon the rooftops of Austin, coaxing weary UT students back indoors to recharge from the exhausting day. But for a specific few, the work has just begun. Lights up on a downstairs room of the Winship Drama building at the University of Texas. Twelves pairs of feet are planted firmly on the ground. Twelve sets of eyes rest shut, probably for the first time in hours. Twelve shoulders rise and fall with...

"Deep breaths." One voice rings out over the stillness. "In... and out."

The voice belongs to Adam Sussman, a charming mix of zeal and intuition and striking dark features. As the director of the company assembled around him, Adam guides the room in a serene, revitalizing warmup. "Shake off the whole day you just had." One could only imagine the variety of "days" being referred to, as each student seems liable to have just accomplished a day packed with infinite classes and internships and study groups and lunches and jobs. The vibrancy of the group is amusingly evident as they now are encouraged to "let out an obnoxious burbling noise" and shake their limbs to their hearts content. Laughing, Adam admits, "I know that we're loosening up so we can sit at tables, but..." Everyone laughs. It's true.

Each cast member pulls forward a desk and slaps a binder upon it. With scripts spread open and smiles abound, the cast and creative team of 'Milton, MI' is ready to conquer day three of rehearsal.

The students in this room are on a mission far more complex than interpreting a script and setting it on stage. 'Milton, MI' is an original play, penned by Paz Pardo, the pragmatic, pensive woman seated next to Adam. Paz and Adam are graduate students, studying Playwriting and Directing, respectively. Unlike Paz and Adam, many of the artists seated around the circle are undergrads. And though the room holds students of varying ages and disciplines, the respect is mutual, creating a trusting environment suitable for building a full-scale production from the ground up. One shining characteristic of UT's theatre program is its steadfast support for original, innovative theatre. Students are encouraged to utilize their creative expertise to amplify their voices via artistic works.

Each spring, the main stage features a small handful of plays written by the MFA Playwrights from the department. This collection is called UTNT, short for "UT New Theatre.' Essentially, all of the plays go up in the same time period - this year it's April 12th to 22nd- and all of them share the same basic set design (of course, it's cleverly versatile enough to be transformed by the change of set pieces and props customized for each show). 'Milton, MI' is "a play about threesomes, poetry and the failure to communicate." As the logline explains, "Leah's got writer's block, Amber's got ambition, Jake's got it all (including your regular fear of slugs). Leah and Jake were up-and-coming hot-shot poets when they moved out of NYC for Jake's professorship at Milton Technical University. Now Leah's working admin as Jake's career skyrockets, and slugs are eating the foundation of their house. So when fresh-faced Amber shows up with a newly minted BA from Milton's English Department, it's only a matter of time before things get sticky. A play about threesomes, poetry, and not communicating." The dialogue is deft and impulsive and rolls naturally off the tongues of Sophia Quiroga and Delanté Keys, two of the lead actors. As the duo explores a brand new scene, they find moments to lift their gaze from the page and fasten their eyes upon each other. Though Sophia is a 21-year-old undergraduate student and Delanté is an Equity actor (not a student, but hired specifically for this show), the respect is existent nonetheless, and the harmony thrives.

In this rehearsal room, there is a sturdy sense of collaborative spirit, punctuated by lots of laughter. Everyone is young and excited to learn from each other and create with each other. During the discussion, Adam raises a question about an objective, and Sophia, brimming with an ardent thirst for discovery, verbally navigates her thought process, speaking enthusiastically and confidently, while Adam nods with encouragement. Then, after proposing a string of imaginative possibilities and plausible explanations to the complex question, Sophia shrugs and simply confesses, "But honestly, I don't really know." And everyone laughs, because everyone knows that it's okay not to know yet. That's what the process is for, and that's why they've got each other.

Right now, the play still only exists as ink on paper and words in the air. But soon enough, this circle of illustrious students will lift it upon its feet so that it can run in all its glory. In just three days, they've already set the ball rolling with merciless momentum, so it's exhilarating to remember that they are, after all, only getting started.

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From This Author Student Blogger: Mia Dedear

  • BWW Blog: Introducing Milton
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