Student-written murder mystery is Drama’s ‘devised play,’ replacing One-Acts

WHODUNNIT? Drama's spring play is set in Nashville, and every character has a motive for murder.

Dorelle Nahmany

WHODUNNIT? Drama's spring play is set in Nashville, and every character has a motive for murder.

Rose Lipner, Staff Writer

When the owner of Grand Ol’ Opry Diner is murdered, who will be declared guilty?

The answer to that question is the product of the imaginations of Shalhevet’s drama students, who are collaborating to create a new play together. 

Drama has abandoned its traditional spring Festival of One-act Plays in favor of a “devised theater” piece. Instead of several students writing and producing individual plays as in past years, this year’s actors are creating a single new play and came up with the plot, set, and music together.

“It’s not necessarily better than one-acts,” said senior Rachel Friedman, who is acting in the play. “But it has certain aspects that make it fascinating.”

Titled Nashville Nights, the play is set in Nashville, where senior Rose Bern has crafted the actors’ ideas about characters and plot into a murder mystery. Each character has a motive, making it hard to guess who the villain is.

“It’s very important to keep the theater department dynamic,” said drama teacher Ms. Emily Chase in an interview. “It’s good for the actors to learn and grow, and it’s great for the school community to get to see a devised play.”

Ms. Chase said this format allows for more character development, which is hard to obtain in just one act.

Until this year, starting in 2003 drama members started writing their own plays during first semester, were able to choose the set and characters for their own play, and in the end would offer four or five different plays, usually presented in late April. This year’s play will not take the stage until June.

Junior Paul Merritt said he enjoys the collaboration of the devised theater piece and the way everyone is able to contribute to the production.  Drama members contributed in writing exercises, which were the foundation for doing improvisations.

“It’s sort of an interactive learning experience,” Paul said.

Sophomore David Lorell is acting as producer and will help Rose Bern run the box office.  Assisting the students are theater professionals Laurel Ollstein, an award-winning playwright; David Mauer, a set designer who designed Rogue Machine Theater; and music adviser Chris Moscatiello who are all working behind the scenes to create the final product.

To find out whodunit, tickets go on sale May 10. Nashville Nights will have four performances, set for June 2, 3, 4 and 5.