This weekend’s World Premiere Festival will open a new show called “Visitng,” written and directed by student Jacob Christiansen. “Visiting” tells the story of a teenage boy who runs away to live with his sister at college. As the two become entangled in one another’s lives again, they unveil an unknown family history.
The play’s roots go back to fall semester when Christiansen took a full-length playwriting class. What began as a few experimental scenes acted out by students soon grew into a full-length play.
In December 2014, acclaimed playwright Jeffrey Sweet judged the full-length playwriting class’s submissions. Of the plays submitted, Christiansen’s play was selected to be performed for NW’s 20th annual World Premiere Festival.
Auditions for the play were held at the beginning of the semester. Rehearsals began the last week of January and have been running until now. Though the rehearsal process has been long, great benefits have emerged from rehearsal time.
“It’s a fairly small cast with only four characters,” Christiansen said. “It’s been good because rehearsals have been more intimate, and we’ve been able to explore character development more deeply.”
As rehearsals progressed, Christiansen has had to learn about the difficulties of being the director of one’s own writing.
Of the various struggles in putting together a play, one of the biggest has been drawing the line between being a playwright and being a director. Allowing cast members to experiment with character development was a difficulty for Christiansen.
“Being the playwright of a show you’re directing makes it more difficult,” Christensen said. “I wrote the play the way I did with certain intent in mind.
“My actors found out that as a director, I try to distance myself by asking, ‘What do you think?’ when developing characters.”
Though “Visiting” has had its share of difficulties in the process, the overall experience has been positive.
The small cast and length of the play have allowed the cast to explore and discover various ways to deliver lines.
“Since it’s a short play and a small cast, we have really been able to dive into each line and try things in new ways,” Christiansen said. “We’ve also explored how to play silence and its effectiveness.”
As rehearsals come to a close, the cast and crew are preparing for the opening of the show. “Visiting” will be performed at 7:30 p.m. Friday–Saturday on March 20–21 in the Allen Black Box Theatre at the DeWitt Theatre Arts Center. Seating is first come, first serve.