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Theatre students to perform thoughts on presidential election

Performers of the original piece

Performers of the original piece "45/16" rehearse in Varner Hall.

Taylor Stinson

Taylor Stinson

Performers of the original piece "45/16" rehearse in Varner Hall.

Katerina Mihailidis and Faith Brody, Intern Reporter and Life Editor

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Concerned by the outcome of the recent presidential election, 16 theatre majors and minors created an original work to voice their thoughts and feelings about the election, according to Mark Ujkstivani, a sophomore acting major at Oakland University.

For four months, the performers worked on a piece called “45/16,” putting together poems, writings and their own viewpoints and analyses, Ujkstivani said. The name of the piece reflects that Donald Trump is the 45th president and was elected in 2016.

The abstract play, helmed by director Jake Hooker, a lecturer in the theatre program, explains the emotions and political tensions felt by these OU students. The actors play themselves and were almost completely in charge of their creation. The collaborative effort is considered devised theatre, or a piece made from scratch by an ensemble, according to Hooker.

“The process is just as important as the product,” he said.

According to Ujkstivani, the group’s first meeting to discuss the work was in November. It was then that Hooker asked the performers how they felt about the presidential election, Ujkstivani said.

“We realized it was a big topic,” Ujkstivani said. “We wanted to focus on how we wanted things to be, on how things can get better, and where do we go from here.”

The makings of the piece started in December, Ujkstivani said and the script was ready in March.

Ujkstivani said there were some complications. The performers struggled with what they wanted to include in the piece.

“For a while, we had a lot of pieces coming in,” Ujkstivani said. “We knew we wanted to focus on the election, we just didn’t know how to pinpoint that.”

“There are no lead roles in the piece. The idea of this piece is that we’re all collaborators,” Ujkstivani said. “Sometimes we’re playing characters, [but] most of the time, we’re playing ourselves.”

The actors will address the audience at the top of the show, explaining they will discuss sensitive political topics, but their intent is to understand and communicate their differences. In order to portray the community feel of the performance, seats for the audience will be placed everywhere, from traditional seats on risers to onstage.

Although Hooker admitted that many of the performers (himself included) lean more toward the liberal side of the political spectrum, everyone is welcome, and he hopes that everyone can find common ground, regardless of their political ideals.

Hooker also stressed the creativity and team effort of the 16 students who worked to put the show together.

“They can expect a lot of talented and engaged artists putting their work up,” Hooker said.

“45/16” will run at 8 p.m. from April 13-15 in the Varner Lab Theatre. There is no charge, but donations are encouraged. For more information, visit oakland.edu/mtd.

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Oakland University's independent student newspaper.