After closing their preview week in Milledgeville on March 18, the Georgia College Department of Theatre flew to New York City on March 19, to open their show “Milledgeville Memoirs.” The play, directed by Karen Berman and written by David Muschell, opened on March 24 at 8 p.m. at an off-Broadway theater titled the American Theater of Actors.
Written from video interviews and transcripts collected by history graduate student Deborah Brown, “Milledgeville Memoirs” presents eyewitness accounts of historical events as they are told from residents’ points of views.
With a small set of a wooden stage made up in the shape of Georgia, painted to represent the four geographical regions of the state, “Milledgeville Memoirs” is set against a projector screen that plays the interviews as the actors mouth the words along with them. The show is a play within a play.
The actors play themselves putting on a show about Milledgeville. Through their rehearsals lessons about Milledgeville are taught and stories are relayed. These stories cover Georgia College’s history, Milledgeville’s participation in World War II and the Civil Rights Movements, the history of Central State Hospital and the writings of Georgia College 1942 graduate and novelist Flannery O’Connor.
The entire production has been two years in the process.
“I knew that I wanted to create an oral history project,” Berman said when reflecting on her arrival at Georgia College.
Collaborating with Bob Wilson of the Department of History, Brown began collecting information on the history of Milledgeville in video interviews and transcripts. A year ago, professor of English David Muschell arrived on the scene of the project as he was recruited to craft a script based upon the narratives. He spent five to six months on the process and in July, the Department of Theatre did a workshop with faculty reading the different parts of the script.
“It was like magic,” Berman said.
“We auditioned back in November and rehearsals began the day we got back to classes,” said sophomore theatre major Madison Junod.
The actors were also required to attend a class three times a week in addition to the night rehearsals as preparation. The final product of the play was different from the script.
“I wanted the actors to infuse their real personalities into the play,” Berman said. “Many of the moments in our rehearsal were transferred into the play.”
The tactic added a very real and believable affect to the final product, especially in the quick-witted jokes made by senior theatre and English major Steve Holbert. This was not the only addition to the script.
“‘Milledgeville Memoirs’ is a cluster of many different artistic mediums,” said sophomore theatre major John Underwood, who also played the violin in the show.
Dancing by choreographer and dance professor Julie Mulvihille accompanied the music composed by Tori Lee Averett for the show. Both artistic mediums reflected the time periods being presented and added a nice backdrop to the scenes. The entire theater department came together to work on this production. Assistant director and junior theatre major Anna Gruber and stage manager sophomore theatre major Teresa Sagan were very crucial to bringing the production together. As a whole, the message relayed in the show is one of how important it is to get to know your elders and appreciate them around you.
“I just couldn’t be more pleased with the cast and production team,” said Berman of the entire production. “It amazes me. Faculty members step to the side and students run the show. I just sit and watch. It always amazes me. The great problem solving and how they take ownership and leadership of the production. It’s pretty cool.”