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Defining diventare: To Become

A CFA play makes it off-Broadway for InCite

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In the slide show above, listen to director Ellie Heyman talk about the play diventare. Photos by Vernon Doucette and Kimberly Cornuelle

Before Maxine Eloi started her Alternative Spring Break work with the Gay Men’s Health Crisis in New York City this week, she went to see her classmates, students in the College of Fine Arts school of theatre, on stage.

Eloi (CFA’13) and her ASB group attended the Sunday performance of diventare, directed by Ellie Heyman (CFA’11) and written by Jenny Rachel Weiner (CFA’09), at the New World Stages, on West 50th St. in New York City.

“I thought it was really beautifully done — visually and the acting,” says acting major Eloi. “The lights convey different moods, and the flashlights seem like the characters’ auras.”

The play was part of the College of Fine Arts third annual InCite Arts Festival, themed What’s Past Is Prologue. The weeklong festival featured performances, exhibitions, film screenings, and other events at venues around Manhattan.

“It’s so cool because as a student I feel honored that our shows get to go to New York,” says Eloi. “It blows my mind. I’m so proud of the seniors on stage, because this is their career — their career starts now.”

Forging connections to a great arts scene was the last thing on Weiner’s mind when she began writing diventare, under the CFA school of theatre’s New Play Initiative.

At a writing workshop three summers ago, Weiner’s instructor asked her to pick two characters, an object, and a place. The people were Linda and Bill, the place was St. Augustine, and the object was a bell — the beginnings of diventare.

“It was very quick. I didn’t know why I picked those things,” says Weiner. “I almost feel like the play wrote me. The process didn’t start from an idea — it started from a feeling, an experience.”

Later, in her junior year, Weiner had to pick an object that hated her, and write about it for a class with playwright Lydia R. Diamond (GRS’09), a CFA assistant professor, whose Stick Fly is being produced by the Huntington Theatre Company, in residence at BU, at the Boston Center for the Arts through March 21.

Weiner had experienced the effects remotely from a hurricane that had hit her Florida hometown. “So I wrote a monologue from the perspective of a window that broke in,” she says. “And that monologue is in the hurricane scene in diventare.” The production focuses on a mother who escapes loss by retreating into an underwater fantasy world.

The play, which Heyman calls diventare four, reflecting the number of rewrites, flourished under collaboration in Weiner’s senior year and has been shown at festivals like CFA’s Fringe Festival and InCite, as well as being CFA’s official entry in the Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival. And although Weiner is pursuing theater arts in Chicago, she feels comfortable leaving the play in Heyman’s hands.

“Ellie’s been an integral part for me, in terms of the progression and the growth of the play,” says Weiner. “And I’ve helped in terms of staging, and in the way the play breathes life, we’ve discovered it together.”

Following diventare, the theme of the harsh reality of grief was echoed in Sunday’s performance of Antigone. In the one-act opera, composed by Marjorie Merryman, a former CFA faculty member, conducted by William Lumpkin, a CFA associate professor, and directed by Jim Petosa, director of the school of theatre, Antigone is faced with the deaths of her two brothers, who have killed each other in battle. One is to be dishonored by their uncle, Creon, who has deemed him unworthy of burial.

Antigone, based on the Sophocles play, was commissioned for ALEA III, the contemporary music ensemble in residence at Boston University. The production features students from the BU Opera Institute and the BU Chamber Orchestra. With a minimal set, the operatic overtures were performed in front of the musical ensemble, both sharing the stage.

The InCite festival also included Reunited, an exhibition by school of visual arts alumni, the Redstones NYC, a screening from the Redstone Film Festival, and production and design exhibitions from the school of theatre.

Kimberly Cornuelle can be reached at kcornuel@bu.edu; follow her on Twitter @kcornuel.

1 Comments

One Comment on Defining diventare: To Become

  • amlaskow on 03.12.2010 at 12:57 pm

    Cool play

    Wow, did BU offer a bus for students or local Boston alums to head down to NYC? I’d be interested in learning more about that next year.

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