MGA Theatre Cochran Presents Pandemic-Influenced Play Created By Students

Author: News Bureau
Posted: Tuesday, October 27, 2020 12:00 AM
Categories: School of Arts and Letters | Faculty/Staff | Pressroom | Students

Cochran, GA

The COVID-19 pandemic is affecting live theatre perhaps more than any other art form.

Social distancing makes it difficult – impossible in many cases – for audiences to gather in theaters to watch live performances. Production choices are limited when stage actors must stay six feet apart and wear masks.

Faced with these challenges, a Middle Georgia State University theatre instructor came up with a creative solution for this fall’s production.

MGA Theatre Cochran, based on the Cochran Campus, is presenting The Distance Between Us, a play created by and for students. Dr. John Iverson, adjunct theater instructor, developed the script using dialogue from interviews he conducted with MGA students who will perform in the play.

The Distance Between Us is an example of what is known as “verbatim theatre,” which was the topic of Iverson’s doctoral dissertation.

“When trying to think of a play to do this semester, given the safety precautions required during the pandemic, I thought this type of production would be perfect for social distancing and mask-wearing,” Iverson said. “There's no need to explain to the audience why the students are in masks or standing so far apart or create some contrived rationale because it's a nonfiction play based on MGA student interviews and created during the pandemic.”

The six MGA students in the play will, during their particular scenes, stand on opposite ends of the stage and take turns speaking their lines. Their dialogue touches on topics of faith, gender, drug use, relationships, homelessness, academic pressure, career goals, and more.

“This play is about our lives and the events that have shaped us into the people we are today,” said Carrie Gilbert, 18, an MGA freshman from Cochran. “Each scene focuses on different people and different topics. Our lines are our own words, and we are each representing ourselves on the stage.”

Another student in the play, Caleb Davis, describes The Distance Between Us as “a modern-day fusion of The Breakfast Club and The Greatest Showman.”

“It highlights a group of students from different walks of life who have individual stories to tell,” said Davis, 23, a senior English major. “I make the circus connection because (the play) is like a ‘come one, come all’ event.”

For the audience and actors, Davis said, the play is “a chance to experience something real in a time when things seem so out of place.”

Also in the play is Ben Pettis, 38, a social work major from Cochran. He said people tell him he’s led an interesting life and he hopes that comes across in the play.

“The play gives students the chance to tell some of their life stories and the reasons that led to them coming back to school during the pandemic,” Pettis said. “Each scene juxtaposes sometimes vastly different stories and personalities in ways that create a sense of connection - even with all the literal and metaphorical distance.”

Other student cast members are Calin Cox, Sam McEntyre, and Gloria Adeola.

While Iverson knitted the script together from his interviews with the students, he gave each of them the chance to make revisions as they saw fit.

“I emphasized to the entire cast that their interviews were their property,” he said. “The final product, along with their recorded interviews and the corresponding transcripts, are really neat things they get to keep. Someday, they're going to have a unique snapshot of their life while in college.”

Performances of The Distance Between Us will begin promptly at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 4, and Thursday, Nov. 5, in the auditorium of Russell Hall on MGA’s Cochran Campus. Admission is free but seating is limited. Face coverings and social distancing are mandatory.