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The three-act play brings a 1915 story into the 21st century.

Professional mentors guide them through the process.

April 2017 – With mentorship from theatre professionals, Drew University students created a meta-modern twist on one of the greatest short stories ever written.

The production, A Metamorphosis: A Horror Story for Our Time, plays off of Franz Kafka’s The Metamorphosis, the surreal tale of a salesman who turns into a giant insect. The student version brings the 1915 story into the 21st century.

The students, all theatre arts majors, created the play as their senior capstone. The project, which began last spring, was guided by Associate Professors Lisa Brenner and Andrew Elliott and professionals Barbara Pitts McAdams, Scott Barrow and Meyung Kim of Tectonic Theater Project in New York City.

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The performance is ‘very stylized, kind of heightened.’

Tectonic is central to a new N.Y.C. semester program that begins in the fall. The Semester on New York Theatre will enable students to work with professionals to create their own play and then perform it in both New York and on campus. The N.Y.-centered semester is one of six that Drew offers.

The Metamorphosis adaptation grew out of a workshop in which students discussed their greatest fears and the tendency of some Americans to fear others, according to Brenner. So, the play, which is being performed April 5-8 (see schedule below), feels both personal and topical.

“What’s exciting to me is the level of risk-taking and the level of creativity and theatricality,” Brenner said. “They’re really embracing the full elements of the stage—something they learned from working with Tectonic.”

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‘It’s sort of a darker world.’

The three-act play blends crisp dialogue and vivid costumes with realistic sound design and some singing. One of the writers described it as a stylized, visceral horror story.

“It’s sort of a darker world because we wanted to bring to life Kafka’s world and that is grim, chaotic,” said Philipe Abiyouness, who co-wrote the piece with Victoria Detres and Ian Ratcliff (see credits below). “The performance style is very stylized, kind of heightened.” It’s also surprisingly humorous.

Abiyouness, who also acts in the play, credited McAdams, Barrow and Brenner with challenging students to smash conventions of the stage and live performance.

“They do a really good job of letting us as students play around and explore but then intervening when they need to, which has been really helpful because when they intervene they give input, they say exactly what we need to hear,” Abiyouness said.

“I feel like when we graduate this what we as former Drew theatre majors are going to be doing: putting up our own work as a collective,” he added. “So, getting that experience as undergrads with this professional guidance has been invaluable, honestly. And I feel like it has prepared us all to enter the world with a few more tools under our belts.”

The performances

A Metamorphosis: A Horror Story for Our Time is being performed April 5-8 at the Directing Lab inside the Dorothy Young Center for the Arts. The performances on April 5, 6 and 7 are at 7:30 p.m. and the April 8 performances are at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. For ticket information, click here.

The cast and crew

Nineteen students worked on this capstone project. Here’s who did what:

Director: Shafer Ward
Head Writers: Philipe Abiyouness, Victoria Detres, Ian Ratcliffe
Stage Manager: Annie Belkin
Technical Director: Emma Barakat
Lighting Design: Everton Johnson
Set Design: MJ Santry
Costume and Makeup Design: Katie Newton
Sound Design: Andrea Ruotolo
Props Design: Michal Kortsarts
Assistant Stage Manager/Dramaturg: Michelle Taliento
Performers: Philipe Abiyouness, Allan Anderson, Emma Barakat, Christopher Bennett, Victoria Detres, Everton Johnson, Michal Kortsarts, Carolyn Newes, Katie Newton, Haley Pilkington, Ciana Proto, Shanna Quackenbush, Ian Ratcliffe, Andrea Ruotolo, MJ Santry, Michelle Taliento
Lobby display: Carolyn Newes, Michelle Taliento