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The Blue & Gray Press | November 17, 2017

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UMW Student Play Stirs up Controversy

By STEPHANIE BREIJO

UMW Junior Paul Morris checks his Facebook every day for death threats. His most recent onslaught, he says, comes from religious groups hell-bent on shutting down the college’s disturbing and controversial student play, “Fall.”

Addressing the existence of God and spirituality, cult-like worship, asylums, murder and sex, the show is bound to raise a few eyebrows. Morris, the show’s director, takes it all in stride.

“It’s very shocking at points,” he said.  “There’s blood, there’s screaming in the dark—it’s  been described as terrifying by people who have seen it already. Because of the death threats you might even see me get murdered in public,” he added with a laugh, “I’d go see something like that.”

“Fall,” opening tonight, involves mystery and mysticism surrounding two asylum inmates, their doctor, and a local religious figure. One man can’t remember a crime he committed. One woman believes that God tells her to perform sexual acts. A doctor becomes obsessed with a character’s treatment and the runner of a local church group questions faith.

Mitch Macdonald, the show’s playwright, began the project two years ago. “Fall,” his senior project, is the final culmination of multiple alarming situations sewn together to shock an audience into questioning and soul searching.

“There are murder scenes, there’s sex recreated,” Macdonald said. “But because this is not the first time these have been done on stage, it’s not necessarily controversial. I think a lot of it is based mostly on rumination and what happens if all that we have left is time to think about the things we’re unsure about—doubts and fears, monsters under the bed.”

In addition to performing graphic scenes and rehearsing every day for a month, including weekends, “Fall’s” four actors—Brett Meslar, Natalie McLarty, Kalyna Jowyk and Kevin Spencer McDonough—must play every character at least once throughout the show.

“We’ve put in a huge amount of work,” Morris said. “We’re taking it as seriously as a mainstage production usually is in terms of set, acting, etc.”

To the shock of some, the traditionally black walls of the 40-seat Studio 115 have been painted white. The only lighting used throughout the play is the pre-installed fluorescent lighting of the room to replicate the sterility of a mental institution.

“It’s an immediate departure from the conventional black box appearance,” said Macdonald, who believes their hard work has already paid off.

“I had a general idea that everything would come together, though I was not sure what form it would take,” he said. “I’m happy to hear that it has already had an effect. The important thing for me is that as long as people are asking questions, I’ll be satisfied.”