Far Away is the newest play to be performed at Performance Hall this semester. It is a futuristic, dystopian thriller, and the senior project of theatre arts major C.J. McElhiney.
During their senior year, theatre arts students are required to do a project based on the track they choose to focus on.
McElhiney loves to direct and be able to see the actors make discoveries for themselves and encourage them to pursue bold choices.
“This play is hard to act,” McElhiney said. “The words are simple, but when put together it’s a difficult story to tell. Being part of their lives has been my favorite part [of directing.]”
Far Away was written in 2001 by contemporary playwright Caryl Churchill, who is known for her stylistically different and thought-provoking plays. This relatively new play is unlike anything ever done before on campus. Janie Board, a theatre arts grad student, is playing the character Joan in the play.
“I love working on things that are unfamiliar because I have a huge passion for new works, and this [is] something that is very new and different for Bob Jones, especially just the style of the play,” Board said. The play is only about 45 minutes long, but it still packs many emotions in with different layers.
McElhiney read the play over the summer and started brainstorming. In December she and her assistant director, Matthew Quattlebaum, junior theatre arts major, chose the cast. When everyone returned from Christmas break, rehearsals began.
Although they originally had more than 50 people audition for roles, Far Away uses a tiny cast with only three main characters and about 14 extras. Board said when she was cast as one of the main actors, she knew she was going to love it because the play is so different; the traditional ways of playing characters don’t work.
“This has been one of my biggest growing experiences [as an actress] because we’re not able to approach this play as we normally do,” Board said. “So that’s been such a fun challenge.”
Because the play is different than some are used to seeing, there will be a short 15-minute discussion before each showing to talk about how the audience should view it, what they can look for and what they can take away learning.
Bekah Frampton, sophomore theatre arts student, is an extra for the play and is helping on stage crew.
“A lot of people view the theatre as something to get entertained [by] and to be easy to understand, to laugh or cry—a simple play,” Frampton said.
But a play like Far Away is quite the opposite. It’s intended to leave the audience thinking and intrigued about society in the future.
“It makes the experience so much better because you are part of the experience,” Frampton said. “You are boldly engaging your mind to be a part of the theatre experience.”
“That’s part of the purpose of a liberal arts education . . . to look at your world from another angle,” McElhiney said.
What makes Far Away a unique play is that it’s not going to be happy or leave the audience with a feeling of overwhelming joy. Board said there’s a certain element of madness to the play.
“The way the play is being staged, it’s to make the audience feel uncomfortable and to make them think,” Board said. “It’s not easy to watch. It’s incredibly thought-provoking and powerful. I think there will be some great conversations that come of it when the audience sees it.”
“[The play shows] what happens when society doesn’t have God, and science can’t provide answers,” McElhiney said. Although the play deals with darker themes such as war, it is not explicit, and is acceptable for all audiences.
“This is an opportunity that you won’t be able to experience again in this way,” Board said.
“This is a unique story, a unique playwright and a unique way that we are putting [it] on. This is a contemporary, still-living playwright who’s making waves, and we have the opportunity to see some of her work, and that’s incredible.”
Far Away will be presented in Performance Hall from Feb. 25 through 27. Tickets are on sale now for $4 and can be purchased at Programs and Productions or online at bju.edu/tickets.