Thoughts from the Writer/Director - Boarding School Stories

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I knew nothing about the Indian Boarding Schools just over a year ago. Jean Bruce Scott says to me, we’re going to write a play about them. And so the research and the writing of the play begin simultaneously. For that first stage reading at the First Look Festival in September of 2014 we wound up with a collection of scenes that we tried to arrange, so that they would suggest the idea of a play. There was no denying that scenes were powerful and that the content was heavy, but a play we did not have. The biggest things we learned from all the research we had done was how vast and complex a topic it was and how much more we did not know. And so more research.

Well, to be precise, we let the play sit for awhile until April 2015 when Jean Bruce Scott says to me, we’re going to put this play up in the Hollywood Fringe Fest in June. And so we went to work. More research and adding what we call a “framework” to hang the scenes on. And this time I’m tasked to direct. Our show ran with a rotating cast, adding music, dance, lights, and sound, and a few less scenes, but this time with a framework that tied the scenes, the stories together.
After the run it was decided the play had potential as an touring, educational play for high schools. And so, Jean Bruce Scott says to me, can we cut this down to 45 minutes and cut from 7 characters? And, by the way, our play was heavy. The topic can be downright depressing, and while we added as much humor as we could for our June run, we would need more for performances at high schools. And, we needed a more comprehensive play that would require more research.
This past month we’ve performed the play twice, once at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo and once at UC San Diego. Our framework is now a cohesive story. We cut a lot of scenes that we loved but didn’t quite fit into the educational story we needed to tell. We added a couple of new scenes in an attempt to give a more comprehensive overview of Indian Boarding Schools. The play runs under 40 minutes and has a cast (a very brave cast!) of 4. The play was well received by both audiences, one large, one small.
After seeing the play I see opportunities for more humor, a tightening here and there. By no means does our play tell the entire story of the Indian Boarding Schools. The topic, as I said, is incredibly vast and complex. But hopefully this play can inspire you to do a little research of your own.


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