Apocalyptic Playwriting Thesis “All-One” Premiers Before World’s End

Sophia Naylor’s obsession with death features prominently in her playwriting thesis, “All – One,” which will premiere this Friday at 7 pm in LPAC’s Frear.

“I’m drawing on the apocalypse,” Naylor said in an interview. “The apocalypse is pretty in vogue. It’s been going in and out of style for a while, and now that we can destroy ourselves at any moment with global war, and with the Mayan 2012, it’s back in.”

“I’m very kind of… morbid,” she said. “The apocalypse is a fascinating thing that’s tied into the meaning of life. And if you think about it in that sense, you think, ‘What if life—stopped.’”

Naylor has been writing plays for some time now, though she started work on this particular play last semester. She was editing a play that she’d written for her playwriting class while writing this new one. However, Naylor said she never questioned which play she would use for her thesis: “I always thought I’d like the newest project to be my thesis, because I think each project feels like it’s getting exponentially better.” Her words closely echoed those of author Zadie Smith, who spoke at the college last week and commented that her favorite book is always her most recent one, because it feels the most right.

“All – One” began as a play about sign language, which is one of Naylor’s interests. She changed the purpose from sign language to the apocalypse because she was interested in visuals, having a chorus, and exploring the relationship between what is spoken and what is seen. “The deaf culture battle between the hearing and the deaf world was too much to do along with the apocalypse, so I had to choose which was more important to me,” she said.

When asked to give a synopsis of the play, she said, “There are three friends, Kate, Frederick, and May, who have been camping out all summer in a hovel in rural Ireland. But winter is coming—yes, I get the Game of Thrones reference—so that’s happening. They don’t have much time left [before winter]. Kate has synesthesia, but it has gone and she is convinced that she will find it. Iris, a young fairy, has found out that she is a bringer of Autumn, and therefore of death, and both she and Kate are afraid of dying.” The rest of the play involves Kate and Iris’ attempts to create a land of youth, a place where they will be forever young.

“In the end, Kate’s main worry stops being about living forever, and becomes a fear of being forgotten, and whether or not she matters,” she added.

Kate’s new fears seem very similar to a fear of death. Naylor clarified: “It’s like, if I have to die, at least I’ll leave something behind. But eventually that will also go, and will it matter that I existed? That’s the gist, more or less.”

Swarthmore theater-goers will recall Kari Olmon’s dramaturgy thesis last week. Olmon’s thesis made use of Swarthmore actors, as well as set, lighting, costumes, and props.

Naylor’s will be very different: her actors are professionals, and they will sit in a circle on a bare stage and read the play without any design elements.

“I had to decide if I wanted to have blossoming professional actors without as much rehearsal time, or student actors with much more rehearsal time,” Naylor said. “Jill [director Jill Harrison] has been amazing at making sure that the text comes first. She doesn’t want to distract the audience. Jill always says, ‘Intention and clarity,’ and that’s what we’re going by.”

Naylor said she’s learned a lot through this process, and that is has been very helpful for her to see her play read aloud as she works through it. “The actors ask questions like ‘What am I doing between scenes?’ and I’m like, ‘I have no idea. Let me go think about that.’ It’s made me think about what are the parts that are tricky in a good way, and what are the parts that need to be re-written.”

The first reading of Naylor’s play, earlier in the semester, was funny and thoughtful. After over a month of editing, it can only be more so. Come to the Frear on Friday night and Sunday night (not Saturday!) at 7 pm for an evening of apocalypse, mythical Ireland, and a new take on how to stage the reading of a play.

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