Department of Performing Arts senior capstone ‘[Working Title]’ portrays struggle of entering adulthood
The senior capstone comments on navigating personal and systemic struggles in the workforce
After working together all semester to create this work, the theatre/musical theatre program senior capstone class performed its original play titled “[Working Title]” at the Katzen Arts Center on Dec. 9 and 10.
Taking place in the all too familiar setting of a Metro car, characters from all different walks of life shared their stories and struggles as they were trapped together when the train abruptly stopped during the holiday season due to a malfunction.
The first scene opened without introduction as a young woman with a guitar walked on and began playing “Stop This Train” by John Mayer. As the other characters joined in song, singing “I’m scared of getting older/I’m only good at being young,” the opening group number made it abundantly clear that the Metro not only acted as the setting of the play, but as an overarching metaphor as the characters both literally and figuratively tried to move forward in their lives. The stopping of the train prompted a reflection on each character’s current point in their journey; a nod to the seniors who created this play and are on the verge of graduating and entering adulthood.
This tension as both the characters and actors are about to enter a new phase of life is expressed in this line of the show: “There are a million different futures waiting just outside these doors, and all they’re waiting for is for us to reach out together and pull ourselves towards the one we want.”
The characters’ struggles to navigate adulthood are further complicated given the context of the coronavirus in conjunction with systemic struggles in the workplace.
Each scene of the show highlights one character, flashing back to their life before they came on the Metro and displaying the current issues they’re facing; ranging from gentrification to performative activism in Gen-Z. While the variety of issues and characters tackled in this show leave little room for character development and nuanced portrayals of these systemic issues, the play is still able to illustrate a snapshot of today’s societal problems in a creative way.
While the play mainly consisted of acting, there were two dance numbers incorporated into the show, further visualizing the character’s struggles in a new medium. There was a strong use of movement from the dancers juxtaposed with the standstill Metro car, which portrayed the inner turmoil of the characters as they anticipated the Metro car to begin moving again, forcing the characters to re-enter reality.
Even though the conflicts were still unresolved and characters’ futures still unclear, the Metro car was fixed and began moving again in the final scene. However, while there was uncertainty, there was also a new sense of optimism present.
In the final scene, the cast came together once more to sing an original song, “What a Wonderful World This Could Be,” implying that solidarity and creating community is needed to create a better world.
This sense of community was also apparent in the senior cast. As each member used the tools gained from their four-year academic careers at American University, they were able to create a comedic yet touching final product as they now move into the real world of theater.