Student playwrights and set designer take risks for FourPlay

Multifaceted set enhances Studio 58 performances



Student playwrights and a set designer with an ambitious plan have undertaken the risky endeavor of simultaneously premiering four plays at Studio 58.

FourPlay, which features four one-act plays written and performed by current or former Langara College students, will premiere at the college March 27 to April 7. Studio 58 works on a limited budget, and there is also a tight deadline by which the set must be built.

Set designer performs a magic trick

Ryan Cormack said the challenge of designing the FourPlay set involved finding unifiable elements between plays which have contrasting plotlines. For example, the plot of one play takes place in a Vancouver basement apartment, while another is located in a courtroom at the bottom of the ocean. After communicating with his colleagues, Cormack created his vision for the set.

“The hard part for me was trying to figure out how to make noticeable changes in the set that don’t take too long for the stage management team to set up and take down,” Cormack said. “The big thing that I have to worry about is how to make one set fit for very different locations.”

Cormack referred to his set as a “magic trick” that reveals different things as the panels move on and off. Cormack said the set will be completed in several weeks, after which it will be painted.

Jenna Leigh, a sixth semester Langara theatre program student who wrote Panty Sniffers for FourPlay, said she recognized the challenge involved with creating a multi-purpose set.

Leigh hailed Cormack for his ability to create a set with transformational capabilities.

“At one point, it’s an apartment and the next one, it’s a courtroom,” Leigh said. “It’s a bathroom at one point, and the way that he’s done it is just incredible.”

Leigh said she was impressed by Cormack’s creativity.

“I was so amazed that something so innovative could come out of one brain,” Leigh said.

Sewit Eden Haile, who wrote one play and is acting in another play within FourPlay, acknowledged she does not face the budget issues Cormack is dealing with. However, writing her one-act play presented several challenges.

“It was a bit scary writing Pretty Girls, because it is pretty explicitly about eating disorders,” Haile said.

Haile felt a responsibility to “honour” her fellow theatre program students by writing a script worth studying.

“Their time is just as worthy as my time is,” Haile said.

Student playwrights appreciate opportunity of having works performed

Yorlene Bernido, a fifth-semester theatre program student who wrote Fly, Love for FourPlay, said the risks she undertook involved writing a plot revolving around race and disability, as well as working with a limited budget. Bernido said the challenge of writing a play included separating her “brain from being an actor” to “being a playwright.”

Bernido embraces the chance to showcase her work, while she is cognizant of FourPlay’s limited resources.

“As a writer it’s a big step to see your art being put up there,” Bernido said. “And because theatre is so low budget.”

Leigh said she relishes the opportunity to have her work shown at Langara because of the competitive nature of the theatre industry.

“Being out in the world, it can be that much harder to get your work out there,” Leigh said. “So, having that opportunity here to start is really fantastic.”

A podcast about FourPlay hosted by Bricia Cortes with audio clips from playwrights Sewit Eden Haile and Yorlene Bernido.

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