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Oles abound at Fringe Festival
August 2, 2011
David Peterjohn '13 entered the drawing for a spot in the 2011 Minnesota Fringe Festival on a whim.
When his number was drawn, he turned to Sam Fiorillo '11 to direct and help create a production. Together they recruited Sean Fleming '11 to help shape the script and produce multimedia elements. Then they brought on Tyler Stuckey '12 to play the lead role.
|Tyler Stuckey '12, who plays the lead in The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock, is backed up by a large team of Oles who have worked on all aspects of the production.|
From there, the number of St. Olaf students and faculty involved in the production in one form or another continued to grow. Oles are now the directors, multimedia directors, actors, stage managers, photographers/graphic designers, and stage hands that will make this production come to life.
While the theme of the play this group developed may be alienation, its production has been all about collaboration.
The group of Oles will launch their original play, The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock, alongside 168 other productions that will be part of the Minnesota Fringe Festival that opens August 4. At least one of those other productions will have an Ole influence as well: Timothy Otte '10 wrote a play titled The Sometimes Grace of Saint Simon of the Water that will be performed at the festival.
An ideal place to start
Peterjohn, a theatre major, first attended the Fringe Festival, a nonprofit event created with the aim of lowering the barrier of entry for amateur theater, two summers ago. "I was then introduced to the possibilities of amazing low-budget theatre that could be done with the festival," he says.
Throughout his sophomore year at St. Olaf, Peterjohn began to grow increasingly serious about producing his work and was struck by the idea that the Fringe Festival would be an ideal place to start. The festival allows anyone to apply to produce a play for the event. Applicants are given a number, which is then submitted to a raffle and chosen completely at random.
From there, those selected for the festival are encouraged to run with whatever idea they've got, making all of the decisions from staging to soliloquies. Along with providing an opportunity for amateur writers and actors to display their talents to the public, the festival also gives the teams at least 65 percent of their box office revenue. "This allows amateurs a chance at financial success and sometimes makes big money for professionals," says Peterjohn.
With the opportunity before him, Peterjohn set to work to make this opportunity a reality. He joined forces with Fiorillo, who had directed the St. Olaf production of Savage Love & Tongues. Together, Peterjohn and Fiorillo brainstormed several script ideas before deciding to write an avant garde piece that would be based on “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” by T.S. Eliot. Once they had settled on a concrete idea, they brought in Fleming to help shape the script and produce multimedia aspects such as films playing on-stage during the performance. With Peterjohn as producer, Fiorillo as stage director, and Fleming as multimedia director, the team then asked Stuckey to play the role of J. Alfred Prufrock.
Weaving a web
"We started with the poem as our initial infrastructure and began to weave together a large web of other poems and stories by ourselves," Peterjohn says. "We’re exploring the kind of alienation that Eliot's Prufrock felt at that start of the 1900s and how it is similar to the alienation brought on by the age of the Internet and social networking."
While the final product may convey this message of alienation, the process behind the play's creation is a prime example of the collaboration that is a central part of the St. Olaf community. "I feel like my contributions to Prufrock are fundamentally connected to what I learned in the classroom," Fleming says. "Nearly every text I contributed to our script was something I read in a course at St. Olaf, or read in my free time at St. Olaf because it was connected to course material."
|The play is based on a poem by T.S. Eliot.|
Fleming says certain courses gave him the tools to create the multimedia effect he wanted to add to the show. By using tips from Anthony Roberts's Movement, Camera, and the Creative Process, Fleming was able to convey meaning through motion rather than sound in his films, and was also linked to several students from the class who will appear in one of the clips.
Peterjohn found that several faculty members of the Theater Department, like Jeanne Willcoxon, Todd Edwards, and his adviser Dona Freeman who had previously participated in the Fringe Festival, were able to give first-hand accounts of its proceedings. The show, which begins August 4 at 10 p.m., is yet another example of the unique opportunities St. Olaf students find outside the classroom, even if they connect with familiar faces from campus along the way.
"At this point we've really hit our stride and we’re coming along nicely," says Peterjohn. "With a lot of publicity to get people to hear about our show and get in our seats we should have a unique show and a success this year."