Although the course requirements may have changed, the emotional trials of graduating college are not all that different from when Cheron Mayhall graduated from Pacific University in 1964.
As part of her theatre capstone, senior Kailea Saplan highlights and works through the parallels and differences between the two time periods through her play, Dance Slow Decades.
It all started when the Alumni Relations Office approached Theater Director Ellen Margolis with the idea of creating a play based on letters that Mayhall wrote to her mother while she was a senior in college that she donated to the university.
Although she had reservations about writing a play based around Pacific campus and culture, but she changed her mind after
reading the letters Mayhall left behind. “I was skeptical at first,” said Saplan, “but then I started reading the letters and I fell in love with the voice that [Mayhall] brought to them and realized then that I wouldn’t be constrained by anything because even though it was a different time period and times were more puritanical than they are now, I was drawn to the humanity within and how I connected to her during my senior year.”
Mayhall passed away in February, 2015 but Saplan was able to meet her before her passing and said that meeting her encouraged her to continue with the project.
Mayhall’s name is changed to Evelyn in the play and another main character is introduced, Akiko, a 2015 senior played by senior Emy Gaub.
“I like the main relationship between the two main characters because they actually don’t like each other,” said Saplan. “I have Evelyn who is the 1964 character, and she is going through her senior year and then Akiko is going through her senior year at the same time and inexplicably intertwining every once in awhile.”
Although the characters don’t like each other, the events that they go through and the challenges they face bring them together, show their differences and show that being a senior in college can be a tumultuous time.
“There are a lot of emotional things that they both go through like they both go through a period where they aren’t feeling well and they feel really down and they both have these super emotional high points and these crossing love interests,” said Gaub. “It’s the human experience and they are both having it.”
During the time that the cast for Dance Slow Decades was being decided, Saplan was in Spain on a study-abroad semester and had never met Director Debbie Lamedman. The first meeting with Lamedman, the cast and the set for her play happened through skype.
“It feels great to have it written and to see my name on posters but not to do much for the producing of this production, I get to sit back and let the actors and the director do their thing,” said Saplan. “I have been sitting in on a few mostly for myself to see where scenes are kind of wonky or sometimes [Lamedman] would ask me to add a few lines to give a scene closure. And that has been good for me as a playwright, that has been an amazing experience that I am not sure other playwrights get to experience.”
Saplan and Gaub are very excited to have students be able to relate on a personal level to everything that occurs in the play. Saplan said she hopes that students remember to respect one another and to remember that people we see every day have full lives that we will never understand.
“People should go see theater because it is a wonderful thing and you can get so much out of it,” said Gaub. “I think that students at Pacific University especially should go because it is about Pacific and there is so much that we can relate to regardless of the era that you are in.”