Miracle Material, a student written play by Alicia Schultz, goes up on 29th & 30th of October at the Barron Theatre at 7:30 (tickets £5). I sat down with Alicia and her stage manager, Alice Shearon, to find out more about the play. Alicia’s first play, Egregore, which went up last year, was a fantastic show about hypnotism and magic, so I was very curious to see what Shultz’s new play has in store.
Tell me a bit about the plot of Miracle Material. Egregore was about a circus, Miracle Material’s about a circus of a different kind, a media circus… Is that correct?
Alicia: This is correct, to an extent. The play is about a media circus but on a more personal level, focusing on the effect it has on the lives of the protagonist Nat Hawell, a student at a university in Edinburgh, and his best friends Aiden and Helen. One day an event happens with a candle, but what exactly happened is the question; the play is about everyone’s reactions to what has happened, their mad, crazy, passionate attempts to figure it out and know the answer.
What sort of themes does the play explore? Is there still an element of magic as there was with Egregore?
Alicia: There may be an element of magic, like Egregore it is open to interpretation; you will have to come and see the play to find out! Concepts of magic are explored, but at its core Miracle Material is a play about faith; magic is something some people put their faith in.
This prompted me to ask if Miracle Material is a religious play – Alicia was glad I asked.
Alicia: It is not a religious play, or a play about religion; it is about faith. Of course faith is a part of religion, but the play also explores having faith in your friends, how well you know them and what they would do, as well as faith in yourself, your place in the world, and who you are as a person.
The play is going up close to Halloween; I presume this was a deliberate decision? Is the play frightening? I notice your publicity features some rather creepy candles!
Alicia: It is not exactly frightening, though it has some eerie moments; there are definitely moments of wonderment and eeriness that work at this time of year. However, the play is actually set right after Easter!
Alice: The play is definitely quite sinister! Also sometimes in rehearsals there are moments where you see the actor is no longer an actor but they have truly become their character, another person; that is scary.
What inspired you to write this play?
Alicia: Sometimes you are in a situation and everything is so even tempered and respectable that you start perversely wondering what people would do if something literally impossible to anticipate happened. That is what inspired this play: that rebellious “Yeah, but what about this?”.
Did the writing process differ from your first play?
Alicia: Yes, definitely. I had an idea of where it was going for the longest time but I did not know exactly what the characters were trying to tell me. I had a light bulb moment in a bookstore at the Fringe, and that was when I knew where I wanted the play to go. It was partly inspired by Faust.
Did you have a favourite character to write? A favourite scene?
Alicia: I really like writing scenes when emotions build up and all of a sudden spill over into one intense monologue. However, my favourite scene is not one of these; it would have to be the scene where Aiden is going through the reactions they have had to the miracle – Olli [Olli Gilford, playing Aiden] delivers the scene fantastically.
Would you bill the play as a tragedy, a comedy, a mix of both?
Alicia: It is a drama with comedic moments. The play explores some heavy themes but I will never write a play that takes itself too seriously. Nothing should take itself too seriously.
Alice: The literal premise of the show is sort of comedic; what happens when a joke is taken too far.
What is it like to see your play come to life?
Alicia: I feel really fortunate; it is incredible that Mermaids is so open to student writing. This is theatre, your theatre, and people engage with it; the actors put as much thought into these characters and my words as they would the words of a famous playwright, and Fraser [Fraser Craig, technician] is planning all this cool stuff for a play that I wrote… It is humbling. This is an amazing theatre community to be part of, to have this opportunity.
Alice: Alicia and I have worked together a few times; I read Egregore and thought it was very good, I could very much hear Alicia’s voice in it. In Miracle Material her voice as a writer has matured; I will be reading or watching a scene and it is so easy to disassociate myself from the fact its student written. It is quite amazing to hear Alicia’s words come from someone else.
How is the play different when working with a cast than it is when you are writing it yourself? Has anything important changed, what additions have cast and crew brought to the table?
Alicia: The characters like to volley witticisms that rely on repetition, and hearing people with different accents and pronunciations back to back is funny, and not something you would normally account for. The pronunciation of some of the characters names has changed as well!
Alice: No lines have specifically changed but sometimes there are exceptions when it comes to pronunciation as Alicia is American and a lot of the cast are English!
What would you like audiences to take away from the show?
Alicia: I would like the audience to be entertained, mostly. I would like them to think about how crazy and beautiful people’s strong beliefs are, but hey, it is student theatre. I mostly want them to be entertained.
Is there anything else you would like to add?
Alicia: This is the first time in ages, and I have worked on A LOT of productions, that I have worked with a cast entirely new to me. People I have never worked with before. Its wonderful getting to know them and to see how they learn and adapt and what they bring to characters. I love all of my actors, (actors, if you are reading this: I love you!); they work incredibly hard to bring my play to life.
Alice: Miracle Material is incredibly unique; it is worth seeing not just if you are interested in student theatre, it will make you think about life and faith and it brings up a lot of questions. It is also very funny!
Finally, I asked the pair if there was a quote from Miracle Material that they could use to summarise the play.
Alicia: “It wasn’t a threat, I never meant for this to happen. It was a game but you kept going and it stopped being fun.”
Alice: What was not a threat? Why did the game stop being fun? Come to the Barron on the 29th and 30th of October to find out!
Miracle Material, 29th and 30th of October, 7:30, The Barron Theatre. Tickets can be reserved at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Featured Image from facebook page by Mermaids and Miracle Material