Summer Finley, playing The Writer in the Ohio University Division of Theater’s production of “365 Days/365 Plays.” (Rachael Beardsley/WOUB Public Media)

OU Division of Theater Explores America In “365 Days/365 Plays”

Posted on:

< < Back to

In their second production of the year, Ohio University’s Theater Division uses a series of short plays to create a show focused on issues of diversity and what it means to be an American in today’s world.

365 Days/365 Plays by Suzan-Lori Parks is a collection of short plays written once a day over the course of a year. Although they do not follow the same story line, many are connected through similar themes such as immigration, war and the racial reality of America. Out of the 365 pieces in the collection, the directors chose a handful to tell a story based on the question ‘What is America?’

(Rachael Beardsley/WOUB Public Media)

“We’ve taken the source material and arranged it in the order we like,” said Daniel Dennis, professor in the College of Fine Arts and one of the play’s two directors. “Everyone has had a voice in the decision making process about which pieces to keep, which pieces to cut and how they are presented. I’m really curious to see how audiences react to it because it’s a bit like performance art in that it just keeps changing.”

Dennis said he and his co-director, Rebecca VerNooy, began choosing which of the short plays to include in the production back in January. They attempted to select and order the different plays in a consistent flow, connecting them through certain characters and relationships.

“It was just a matter of reading through and marking the ones that … spoke to the question of ‘What is America?’ or ‘Who is an American?’ or somehow seemed particularly meaningful to us,” Dennis said. “It’s questions that I think are on people’s minds right now.”

(Rachael Beardsley/WOUB Public Media)

One of the ways they were able to find a flow between the different plays was through the character of The Writer. A semi-autobiographical addition from the playwright, she is the one constant throughout the different selections. In each piece, The Writer sits on the sidelines, observing, commenting and creating.

“[The Writer] really is the throughline of the piece,” Dennis said. “In a sense, she’s a protagonist. We follow her throughout.”

Summer Finley, a senior BFA student who plays The Writer, agrees on the importance of the character.

(Rachael Beardsley/WOUB Public Media)

“They’re using this character as the playwrights voice,” she said. “You’re going to see the play through my eyes.”

In addition to The Writer, 13 other cast members tell the stories in each selected play, taking on the roles of different characters as needed.

“Someone may play an immigrant wife and also a worker,” Finley said. “You can see the resemblance in each character and how they connect to each other.”

Dennis said that presenting these characters in an accurate way was a main concern during production, and he and VerNooy tried to have an open dialogue with the cast and crew.

(Rachael Beardsley/WOUB Public Media)

“This particular piece is from a black woman and is being directed by two white people,” said Dennis. “My own perspective is limited, so it’s been interesting trying to be really clear about our perspectives and allowing all the perspectives to be present in the room all the time. I don’t know if we’ve succeeded entirely in that, but that has been our goal.”

365 Days/365 Plays will run from October 25 to October 27 and October 30 to November 3 at 8 p.m. in The Elizabeth Evans Baker Theater in Kantner Hall. Ohio University students receive free admission, while all other students and senior citizens are $7. General admission is $10.