Welcome to our Featured Play Spotlight. Commence by Christian Kiley is a gift to the Class of 2020. It is intended to be performed in a video conference call or meeting, and is specifically geared toward actors who are not in the same physical space.
A group of students have an online meeting with their principal while they’re all under quarantine. They want to regain normalcy and recoup what they’ve lost as seniors: prom, school play, graduation. But nothing is normal. Everyone is losing things. It’s a scary and uncertain time, like a fire has destroyed memories that haven’t happened yet.
Why did we publish this play?
Christian sent us Commence as a response to his experiences teaching in the virtual world/classroom and the response(s) from his students. It’s a play about trying to find normalcy when nothing is normal. My favourite image in the play is “It’s like a fire has destroyed memories that haven’t happened yet.”
This play is specifically written to be performed on an online platform, so teachers don’t have to worry about adapting the script. It’s ready to be virtually performed as is.
1. Why did you write this play?
This play is a gift to the Class of 2020. I know that a one-act play will never make up for what this talented group of students lost during the COVID-19 quarantine but I felt compelled to do something for them. In many ways, this is a farewell to many of the seniors I have taught for three, four years. I still haven’t had the chance to see them, have a proper goodbye, and cheer them into their bright futures.
2. Describe the theme in one or two sentences.
Commence is about appreciating life’s culminating moments and not complacently allowing them to slip away. When you have earned something and don’t get it, you have a right to seek it out. Commence!
3. What’s the most important visual for you in this play?
The series of moments that take place during the makeshift graduation ceremony. These moments allow for coordinated and organic blocking and physicality.
4. If you could give one piece of advice for those producing the play, what would it be?
Be fully in the moment, even when you aren’t speaking. Many low status characters, especially in video conference plays, seem to be adrift, rather than being connected. Listening, reacting, and letting moments impact you, your character are critical parts of the experience.
5. Why is this play great for student performers?
It looks at students coming to terms with losing something they have spent most of their lives working toward. As a teacher, it is the energy I felt on March 13 (when we were told we would be engaging in distance learning). It is my perspective on the journey I was on with the seniors I mentor and teach.
6. Do you have any tips for those who are performing this play online?
Don’t be afraid to connect to the real feeling of this play. When it was first announced that we were transitioning to distance learning, there were a wide range of responses. Tap into the range of emotions that you are feeling, they are all useful in this play (and in your work as an artist and actor). Because it is a video conference call, that most likely will be produced as a video conference play, the circumstances of the play line up with the circumstances of the life situation perfectly (or imperfectly but in a relevant way).