Audience Interaction Writes the Play

April 19, 2011

Maidens Dance
Photo by Spencer Lynn

The Annie Russell Theatre production of It’s All Greek to Me is as unpredictable as it is entertaining. Two and a half years in the making, this original and improvisational romp through the ancient Greek tragic form debuted to a near-capacity audience on Friday, April 15. Directed and conceived by David Charles, associate professor of theatre and artistic director of the Rollins Improv Players (RIP), It’s All Greek to Me is the result of ongoing student and faculty collaboration during two summer research projects.

Students were given the opportunity to be part of the development process throughout the various stages of the production’s formation. Cast members Shannon Singley (Class of 2011) and Amanda Leakey (Class of 2011) played major roles in the project’s realization by being part of two summer research dramaturgical teams. In addition to the creation of a definitive improvisational theater experience, the team presented its research in an educational resource packet intended to provide educators with means to facilitate and enrich a discussion on Greek tragedy within their classrooms.

“Seeing this project come to fruition is an unbelievable experience,” said Leakey, who began working with the research team her sophomore year. “The first summer we worked on this, we asked ourselves ‘can this be done?’ The second summer, we asked ourselves ‘can this be done well?’”

Singley was also part of the research team. “I put in a lot of work on the development of It’s All Greek to Me,” said Singley. “As a result, I have no doubt in its success. I trust the show and all of the work we’ve done.”

It’s All Greek to Me is long-form improvisation, which takes on the properties of a full-length play. However, all of the production’s action is completely spontaneous. The second production of this kind, It’s All Greek to Me follows the same format as the production of the original improvised murder mystery Murder We Wrote, which was also created by Charles and performed in the spring of 2008.

As the audience take their seats, a group of theatre students gather for class on stage. When confronted with a homework deadline, the students jump off the stage and into the aisles and begin to ask the audience for help with their homework. Those in attendance soon realize that they are giving input on key plot elements in the Greek tragedy yet to be performed.

Prompted by the challenge of covering the genre of Greek tragedy in a single class period, the cast begins with an impromptu play within a play. The curtain then rises to reveal the palace of Thebes, which was creatively designed by Artist-in-Residence Lisa Cody-Rapport. With the goal of making the spirit of Greek tragic form accessible to modern audiences while reuniting the style with its improvisational roots, It’s All Greek to Me was simultaneously predictable and random. Complete with an ever-present chorus with flute, lyre and drum accompaniment, the play featured many of the well-known characters and myths from classic Greek tragedies, yet followed a storyline unique to the suggestions supplied by the audience. “We’re playing around the plays, but we’re not re-creating them,” said Charles.

To further demonstrate the audience’s control over the action on stage, a character named Vanna Aspros brings an audience member up to the stage on three separate occasions to spin a “Wheel of Fortuna,” to decide which new plot element will be brought into the play. “It’s exciting to have the audience control so much of the show,” commented cast member Brian Hatch (Class of 2012), who took on multiple roles throughout the performance.

Line fumbles and character breaks add to the unpredictability of the show, with amusing results. With the success of each performance left up to fate, the show guarantees that no two performances will be alike. Do not miss this opportunity to take part in this novel theater experience. For ticketing information, please call the box office at 407-646-2145 or visit

By Justin Braun (Class of 2011MBA)

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