One of the wonderful benefits of living in C-U is the vast amount of art that encompasses the area. We have the added benefit of a concentrated booming arts scene on the University of Illinois campus. Though I understand some locals often refrain from visiting campustown due to the hustle and bustle (and hard-to-find parking), I feel as if the theatre scene on campus is often overlooked by the community — almost taken for granted.
New Revels Players (NRP) are one of several student-operated theatre companies on campus. According to NRP's website, they have been known on campus as New Revels Players"since the fall of 2000. The troupe is a reincarnation of the original Revels Players, who performed renaissance and classic plays from 1971 until 1992. NRP has since ventured away from their classical roots and currently present plays of all kinds. I had the chance to talk with NRP's Jordan Ratliff, the playwright and director of their upcoming original production Love Life.
"Love Life is an original, student written, vignette style show, consisting of 10 scenes. Love Life explores how love can impact and intertwine with our daily lives. When someone asks you, "how's your love life going?", what do you think about? Do you think about your significant other? Marriage? Divorce? Being single? Your first kiss? Trauma? Love Life takes at all of these thoughts, and transforms them into fun and thought provoking theatre that is sure to make everyone reflect on their lives."
SP: As both a playwright and director, you have a lot on your plate. I know from experience that it can be hard to wear both hats at once. Are there any moments where you have found yourself wearing one ‘hat’ more than the other? What has your experience been directing your own work?
Ratliff: I actually found that I love wearing both hats. Often when I write, I have my own vision in mind. When I direct my own work, I get to see my vision come to life. There have been times where I had to drop the playwright hat for a second and think about the practicality of the show. During the rehearsal process, I definitely wore the director hat more than the playwright hat. Before we had auditions, we work-shopped the show. This way, I was able to get the play the way I wanted it before we started adding actors into the mix. That being said, I found that I often became closed off to other possibilities for how the show could look. I really relied on my two assistant directors (Miranda Johnson and Mihir Sabnis) to give me outside perspectives of how the show was looking. It was a fun and humbling experience though.
SP: Have the actors interpretations of the various roles you have written changed your perception of Love Life?
Ratliff: There were definitely times where I would have to let go of a vision I had for a certain character, and open my mind to different interpretations of the text. I honestly enjoyed seeing what my actors did with the roles they were given. They definitely helped me realize the stronger and weaker parts of my writing. I quite enjoyed the eye opening experience.
SP: For those who have not heard of New Revels Players before, can you speak a bit about the organization?
Ratliff: New Revels Players is an RSO (Registered Student Organization) on campus. It is made up of students from all areas of study. They dedicate themselves on producing enjoyable and diverse theatre. They really encourage students to present their ideas and make them a reality. They tend to do three to four shows a semester (usually at least one student written piece). The people are super fun to be around and they really make you feel loved and accepted. They are super open to hearing different points of view, and they really make you feel important.
SP: Any last thoughts or words of advice to anyone who might be interested in venturing into the world of playwriting/directing?
Ratliff: Be open. Be willing to take criticism. You definitely need a tick skin if ou are going to direct your own writing. Make sure you get second and third and fourth and fifth opinions on everything. Going in with an open and flexible mind will make the experience all the more enjoyable.
March 8th + 9th, 7:30 p.m.
St. Andrew's Lutheran Church
908 S Wright St, Champaign
Tickets: $7-$10 dollars
Learn more about New Revels Players here
Rehearsal photos & synposis courtesy of Jordan Ratliff