By Danielle Linton
The MOVAL’s theatre department impressed audiences with their new act Devised Genesis, a two-part performance created to help incorporate humor into a serious discussion about anxiety and artificial intelligence.
The performers, Alexandria “Ally” Taylor and Makayla Rodgers, felt thrilled to be a part of this project, especially since they got to present their devised scene on anxiety “He / She / They never met a stranger” for the Kennedy Center Arts College Theatre Festival in Iowa.
“I wanted to be involved in the devised piece because I saw devised theatre performed at KCACTF,” Taylor said, “and mentioned to Harold that it would be really cool to devise a scene and take it to KCACTF. And we did.”
However, coming up with ideas for the given prompts provided by the KCACTF made it difficult for Taylor and Rodgers to decide where they wanted to go with their act.
“KCACTF assigns a prompt for the devised scene,” Taylor said. “This year the prompt was ‘He / She / They never met a stranger.’ Makayla and I starting talking about it and came up with the idea about talking about anxiety. Harold gave us the prompt of ‘We Hold These Truths to be Self Evident’ and from that we discussed the ideas of artificial intelligence, patterns, and privileges.”
“We spent time dissecting each one and trying to tie our thoughts together into a cohesive set of scenes,” Rodgers said. “Sometimes we would think of these great ideas and not be able to figure out how to transform that into a scene so we needed up ditching a lot of things. This was definitely a trial and error process.”
“The most challenging part was sharing so much of ourselves,” Taylor said. “The script is basically an exaggerated version of who we really are. It was challenging to share that part of ourselves with an audience.”
Although Taylor and Rodgers felt nervous about how this would turn out, Associate Professor of Theatre Harold Hynick knew they could do it.
“I will say that I am proud of the thought, effort, and creativity Ally and Makayla put into this project,” Hynick said. “It’s one thing to produce a play when you have a script, but it’s much more challenging when we have to create and perform something from scratch. It also takes courage to create a piece around something like anxiety. They had to be willing to open up and be vulnerable in front of strangers.”
So, by sharing their personal experiences of anxiety in their devised scene “He / She / They never met a stranger”, Taylor and Rodgers hope that other people will receive a positive message from it.
“I hope that our audience finds the scene funny and I hope they realize that other people also have anxiety,” Taylor said. “I hope someone can find the scene relatable.”
“I hope that others will be able to watch Ally and me get up there and perform this piece and see that we are being open and honest and that anyone can find an outlet to express and work through their anxieties or any other issues that they may have,” Rodgers said. “For me theater has always been that outlet and I am so excited to share this piece that I have helped bring to life with an audience of others who may be able to connect with the themes we talk about and feel less isolated in their own struggles to bring their art to life.”