Research award winner stars in self-penned play

By Samantha Brandbergh

A Westminster College of the Arts senior will perform in a self-written one-woman show, which highlights the exploitation of females.

Kelsey Carroll is one of five winners of the Undergraduate Research Scholar Award (URSA), worth $5,000. The theater performance major has written her first play, entitled “1 in 4,” which audiences can attend May 3 at 7:30 p.m. in the Spitz Theater.

“This performance is an amalgamation of stories collected through documentary-style interviews with women of all walks of life in our community,” Carroll said. “It explores the topics of change, growth and listening, all centered around the mistreatment of women.”

The recipients of the URSA are working closely with faculty members to go above and beyond what a traditional class can teach them. Professor of theater Trent Blanton is advising Carroll throughout the process of putting this production together.

“Kelsey is one of the most intelligent, dynamic students that have ever graced the stages at Rider,” Blanton said.

Throughout the process of putting this production together, Carroll says that Blanton has been “one of my greatest mentors.”

“From the very beginning, Trent asked me to hone in on what I want to accomplish with this project,” she said. “He has been completely supportive of me every step of the way, championing every idea and then, in defining and creating each character, making them specific and theatrical versions of the real person.”

For Carroll, this process has been something she has never experienced.

“I have never written a play, nonetheless acted in a play that I have written, so that is a big difference,” she said. “It will be my first time performing onstage by myself, so that’s new and exciting.”

Even though Carroll is a first-time playwright, those around her have inspired her to expand her talents.

“Kelsey’s curiosity about devised theater and, in particular, documentary theater came from the work we did in our devised theater class,” Blanton said.

Carroll described her experience in Blanton’s Advanced Performance Workshop as one that inspired her to try something new.

“I felt called to write, which is something that I am completely new at,” Carroll said.

According to Carroll, her interest in solo performances stemmed from a fellow female actor and playwright. “I witnessed an amazing one-woman show, No Child… by Nilaja Sun, a few years ago, and that performance really left an impact on me,” Carroll explained.

When it came to formulating her own production, Carroll’s creativity and passion for social issues were at the forefront.

“I knew I wanted to collect stories, really listen and document the lives of the extraordinary people we meet everyday,” she said. “So when the opportunity to apply for the URSA came to me, I began to connect this new-found passion for writing, and well-established love for acting, with my passion for creating social change, and this project was conceived.”

The extensive process of creating a production from scratch and hearing stories from empowering women has proven to be the most rewarding aspect of this journey for Carroll.

“Hearing their stories has been an incredibly humbling, inspiring and revelatory process,” she said. “Having the task of taking these stories and using them to help give voices to those who are not always heard has been one of the greatest blessings.”

Carroll promises audiences that this performance will “pull on their heartstrings,” and its stories will leave a lasting impression and provoke a desire for social reform.

“This play speaks towards a cause and will hopefully spark something inside those who come to see it. My hope is that the audience not only hears the stories of the women represented in this play, but that they will be inspired to listen to those around them in their everyday lives, invest and live in the moment and engage others in a dialogue.”

printed in the 4/29/15 edition

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