Behind the scenes of “Entanglement Theory”

Most productions require line memorization, fluidity in blocking and a firm portrayal of the story chosen by the playwright or the director.  The Bellevue College theatre department is taking on a bigger challenge this quarter by constructing a ‘devised’ piece. Participating students are responsible for writing the scenes, stage direction, character development and even the musical score on their own.

The show has been titled “Entanglement Theory” because every character touches all of the other characters’ lives in some way, shape or form, explained Bradetta Vines, director of “Entanglement Theory.”  The story is set in an alley in Seattle, a choice that will make the show relatable to the BC audience. “It’s about change, identity and transformation” supplied the cast at large when commenting on the show’s premise. Major scenes will take place in the bar and tattoo parlor that the production team have created.

An important component to the construction of “Entanglement Theory” was the use of  the ‘view point’ technique. “There are nine different ones, and you throw them all in the mix together. This makes the process a little more than improv.” The cast was  also required to read source material including “The Lost Symbol” and “How the Irish Saved Civilization” for inspiration. Each actor created character definitions, or ‘arcs,’ including roles that exhibit ‘the wanderer,’ ‘the seer,’ ‘the mirror,’ ‘the trickster’ and ‘the hanged man.’

Writing “Entanglement Theory” from scratch has been an interesting challenge for the production team. “Everyone is going to get frustrated at some point, but everyone will see the beauty that comes from it,” said Jack Anderson, who plays a music professor at the university. “It’s definitely different in the sense that you have more writers so you’ll get different styles and different stories that people want to tell. It’s very different from having one person write it,” he said.

The cast expressed the immersive process of collaborating with other student writers. Karla Perez said, “we came in without a clue as to what was happening and we created everything.” Cassie Schuster was nervous to be part of “Entanglement Theory” because she knew it wasn’t written yet. “I’m really good at sitting down and memorizing lines and doing research.” While Schuster has written some small plays for herself, she has never written a show with an entire staff of writers to be performed on stage. Perez and Schuster will act together as tattoo artists in “Entanglement Theory.”

Hannah Coleman has participated in every BC production this year aside from “Translations.” This quarter, she takes on the role of Morrigan. Entanglement Theory is unique in that students have total creative freedom rather than following the playwright’s perspective directly,” explained Coleman. “When you work and collaborate with a bunch of different people, you can create a really wonderful piece,” she said.

Jaeger Snyder will be playing two characters in “Entanglement Theory.” “I get the chance to be a writer and have a little bit of creative freedom…not only am I getting acting experience but I’m also getting playwright experience and I think that’s something really awesome to walk away with,” said Snyder. Nasim Rizvi, playing the show’s comedic relief, explained that the focus has changed for her in “Entanglement Theory.” “As an actor, you normally read a scene and go ‘OK, these are my objectives and potential tactics,’ but since we are creating the scenes we have to think ‘why are our characters here?’ and ‘What’s driving us?’”

Michael Lacker has been involved in many BC plays and most recently finished directing spring quarter’s “The Last Days of Judas Iscariot.” From a director’s and actor’s standpoint, he said “it’s definitely a curveball compared to most things I’ve done. I don’t know how some of the things are going to fit together but we have time to tell that story.” He continued that theatre, like any form of visual art, will be seen differently because people have different connections and perspectives with what they are observing.

“I’m transgender in the show, which is really cool because I get to portray some personal issues,” said Griffin Freese, who plays the role of Jesse Tull. “One of the hardest aspects was finding the message. Every good story has a message. We got to share the important things in our lives that we want them to walk away with,” said Freese. The brainstorming process is an important component to rehearsals. “I think everyone has at least put forth one idea that has become part of the core of the show,” said Freese.

That being said, many students have brought ideas to the table that are simply shot down by the entire cast. Stage Manager McKenzie Couper phrases this as “the birth and death of everyone’s babies.” Director Vines added “it’s like taking out the golden scissors and cutting out the good stuff.”

Bradetta Vines sees herself as the production’s facilitator rather than director. “I bring them exercises to do that includes composition work, and then four of us take what they are doing and some of their words and write it down and add our own to create the scene and structure.”

Vines was most apprehensive about the construction of an original score, but this was an exciting opportunity that students jumped on from the get go. “Within the first 48 hours, they had the music for the opening number written, their very fist viewpoint composition work. The music, which I was terrified about, is pouring out of them like a fountain,” said Vines.

Schuster also expressed her excitement about writing music. “One day, Jack Anderson and I got to rehearsal early and we were like, ‘Hey, let’s write some chords. We wrote a tune together and I wrote one on my own that’s getting in the show,” she said.

For the BC theatre arts department, it’s highly important to gain student interest from audiences that attend productions. “It’s not just us; we’d like people to come in and improve our stock of actors, designers and performers. We would love to see students inspired and decide to come work with us,” said Lacker.

This show is entirely new, and it’s not often that BC students have access to original works of theatre. Entanglement Theory will be performed in the Stop Gap Studio Theatre on August 1-3 and October 3-5 at 7:30 p.m. for the student admission price of $10. “Come see the show. It’s awesome,” said the production team in closing.