The graduate theatre students of Bob Jones University made their thesis project, Flute Dream, a unique theatre experience that traveled from Rodeheaver Auditorium to the Bridge of Nations.
Performed Oct. 6 and 7, Flute Dream followed the main character on her journey away from home and into the outside world. Likewise, the audience followed the character from Rodeheaver Auditorium to the front-campus fountain. There, the audience watched and walked along the Bridge of Nations as the main character climbed into a boat and floated across the fountain.
Flute Dream is based on a short story of the same name by Hermann Hesse. The script was written by Jordan Ford, who is also the director of the play. She was joined by a crew of other graduate students including David Veatch, assistant director and stage manager; Wilbur Mauk, scene designer; and Mady Bell, costume and props master.
Ford said one of the things they focused on when developing ideas for the play was the desire to show students the potential and flexibility of theatre, no matter how many challenges came up.
“[Flute Dream] kind of breaks the idea of what theatre has to be,” Ford said. “All [theatre] is is telling a good story, whatever form that takes.”
Possibly the biggest obstacle the crew faced was finding a boat. They considered renting or borrowing one, until Mauk found a boat for sale on Facebook Marketplace. But even after the boat was obtained, there was a lot of nervousness as to whether it would be able to float in the fountain without sinking under the weight of the actors or damaging the fountain itself.
“The boat was our biggest trial,” Bell said. “When we got that in the water and it was going so well, it was a big moment for all of us!”
Another major obstacle the crew had to tackle was COVID-19. With social distancing guidelines in place, many theatres have closed until live performances can be held without worrying about audience and actor safety.
But the crew considered battling a pandemic and accommodating safety guidelines to be a small price to pay in order to have theatre at all.
“It’s kind of exhilarating to be able to do theatre,” Mauk said. “We’re so willing to follow [COVID-19 guidelines] in order to be able to do live theatre. It’s just a blessing to be able to do it in the first place.”
With the pandemic in mind, Mauk said one of the crew’s goals was to create a theatre experience where the audience felt like they were being cared for through community and good storytelling. While the crew wanted to present a play that an audience could view while following social distancing guidelines for their physical well-being, they also wanted to present a play that catered to the audience’s emotional needs. Telling a story that brought joy to the audience was a high priority.
“If you can leave happier than you showed up, maybe smiling a little more . . . that’s caring for our audience too,” Veatch said.
Ford said the very act of seeing a live play with other people can be fulfilling, especially after many students were less social over the summer due to COVID-19.
“You’re involved in an experience together as a group,” Ford said. “You’re getting to enjoy something together.”
Despite all the obstacles, the collaborative and creative process of putting Flute Dream together was an exciting adventure, and the crew was very excited to present the show to BJU.
“Right now, live theatre feels radical and against everything that’s going on,” Veatch said. “It’s exciting. Theatre always finds a way.”
The crew hopes the audience came away from the play with a sense of fulfillment and comfort. Bell said she hoped the play would present an interesting outlook on life and on growth through trials.
“One of my big takeaways personally is just taking the trials God gives us in life and not wallowing in the fact that the trials were hard, and we suffered through them,” Bell said, “but knowing God is giving us trials to help us grow.”
No matter what the audience came away with from the play, Ford and the rest of the crew hope the audience just enjoyed themselves and come to see different shows being presented this theatre season.
“If you enjoyed this one, come and see a completely different take on something else,” Ford said. “Everything you see [this season] is going to be really unique this year.”