Georgia Southern Brings “Emotional Honesty” to Devised Theatre

By: Sally Henry

“Despite the differences people have, they can still come together and be friends and whatnot,” Georgia Southern University Junior Tsiambwon Akuchu says regarding the inspiration for GSU’s performance in this year’s Devised Theatre project at KCACTF.

“The devised theatre project is something that wasn’t started too long ago,” says Akuchu. “It’s basically an improvised collaborative project. You’re given a topic or a prompt, like, say the prompt is “traveling,” or whatever, and you improvise a piece, be it scripted or just completely improv or movement or whatever, and you’ve got 20 minutes to perform it.”

Akuchu says that he and six other Georgia Southern students have been slowly formulating their piece collaboratively ever since November.

“This year’s prompt is ‘I’m like you; I’m not like you.’ And you can kind of interpret it whichever way you want.”  Rather than having one person pen the play, they threw ideas around as a group for a long time, out of which eventually grew a show. “We took it, and we interpreted it, and we created a piece around it where we highlighted the differences between people… but we also showed how people can come together.”

The product they created ended up being a heart-wrenching performance that brought the audience back to their childhood and explored the struggles that we all faced before college.

Akuchu describes this Breakfast Club-esque play, “The Macaroni Club,” saying, “It’s basically this group of kids, and they meet up when they’re young and they find out, ‘Oh hey, we all like macaroni.’ And that’s kind of something that ties them all together at the beginning.”

Each scene in this piece was a different life stage, including elementary, middle, and high school, as well as high school graduation. In each scene, these very different characters each told their own stories from those times in their lives (think A Chorus Line with less cohesive plot).

“We kind of watch them grow up in stages and see problems they have and… how that kind of separates and drives them apart to the point where it completely isolates one of the characters, and she commits suicide. From that, they kind of come back together again saying, ‘Oh wait, we had something great. I don’t know why we lost it. We’re different, but we’re still friends. We still find what we like in each other.’”

The stories the actors told were so diverse that every audience member could relate to some part of the show and recall the very real challenges or wonderful memories of being those ages. That was an emotional trip down memory lane, reducing most of the audience members- and even some of the actors- to tears, if not sobs.

And yes, every actor was playing himself or herself and telling their own story, which made  the show even more emotionally-charged.

“It really ads a layer of emotional honesty to it, because these are our stories, something we experienced. Sharing it like this was kind of liberating.”

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