When happily ever after isn’t the end: A collaboratively devised theatre piece from THEA: 494

By Taylor Cabalse

To live “happily ever after” has been a lifestyle USD students have attempted to strive for. Since childhood, Disney princess movies have played a big role and have influenced who students have grown to be.

Since the beginning of spring semester, the nine theatre majors enrolled in Theatre 494: Collaboration Theatre Making, have compiled a piece called TBD: To Be Devised. TBD premiered in the Black Box Theatre, Camino Hall room 131, on May 2. TBD was originally planned to show from May 2 to May 5. However, due to popular demand and many sold out shows, they extended the show to the following Tuesday May 7.

TBD, which typically means to be determined, was originally given the name in order to be a place holder until the class decided on a name for the show. As production progressed, the class decided to keep the acronym TBD but changed the meaning to “To Be Devised.”

Senior and TBD performer Kelsey Schulte explains the thought process behind the show title.

“The more we worked on it and the more we started piecing the show together, we had retitled it ‘To Be Devised,’ envisioning that the audience would be in for a treat not knowing what the show was about,” said Schulte.

Students in Theatre 494 had to audition for their enrollment. Professor of this class, Monica Stufft, requested interested students to perform an “elevator pitch” for their audition. This type of audition is two minutes long showing why they would be an attribute for this collaborative piece. Stufft hoped to find a small ensemble who would work well, inspire, and accept criticism from their fellow classmates. During the audition, students showcased a variety of talents ranging from hula hooping, singing, dancing or simply explaining why they should be in the class.

This small ensemble, made up of nine students, allowed the show to be created from a variety of different skill levels, backgrounds and talents.

“As for what we learned, I know that the cast will agree when I say it has been the most enjoyable, intense, absolutely crazy experience only because we have been open and available to the show and to each other,” Schulte said. “There [were] nine different opinions being thrown about in the space, but we have to learn when to listen and when to talk. Compromise and creativity are the two main components that have driven this process.”

Although Theatre 494 has been in session since the beginning of the spring semester, the script was not finalized until 72 hours before opening night. Early in the semester in March, the class decided on the theme of Disney princesses.

“We had the choice of either basing the show on Disney princesses and how we affect them, or switching it up a bit and having it be our personal stories and how Disney has affected us,” Schulte said. “We wanted the audience to go on a roller coaster of emotion as they saw that life is compiled with various happy moments, not a single happy ever after.”

Early in the play, the performers recited monologues. It was a collaboration of creative nonfiction and a compilation of their own personal stories. The performers wanted the audience to realize that no matter the generation they grew up in, Disney has influenced them in one way or another.

“Our monologues showcased personal moments that have shaped our ideals and morals growing up, and how these ideals and morals have seeped into our adult lives,” Schulte said. “We really put a lot of ourselves into the performance and it definitely shows.”

After the monologues, junior Erin Dellorso performed a scene to show how since childhood, Disney princesses have taught them how to behave to be perfect and have a happy ending. The songs included in this scene contained messages about being domestic, but also being brave and independent.

The cast hoped to acknowledge that there is not only one happy ending to strive for, but a series of happy endings.

According to the cast, the positive parts of life should be relished and recognized, but they are not the end of the story. These happy endings are not endings because life goes on.

Following the play, the nine performers along with Stufft sat down with the audience for a question and answer session. The Q&A was put into the performance to keep an open communication between the cast and the audience. This was also a time audience members provided their feedback and what they enjoyed or what they thought the class could improve on for future productions.

“You don’t get married, ride off into the sunset, and then that’s it. Life goes on. You face struggles, obstacles, and it’s not always rainbows and butterflies,” Dellorso said. “The point is recognizing those happy endings throughout your life and relishing in them. You take the good with the bad. Life is a roller coaster.”