What: “Whales & Souls” workshop performance
When: 7:30 to 10 p.m. Saturday
Where: The North American Laboratory for the Performing Arts
825 E. Washington St.
Muncie, IN 47305
Find out more about the play here.
Ball State alumni tend to keep pretty busy after graduation, and those returning to Muncie Saturday are no exception.
Chris Roe and Matt Renskers will host a workshop performance of the one-man show “Whales & Souls.”
The show was written by Andrew Kramer, also a Ball State alumnus.
“Whales & Souls” uses the tagline “an adult fable.” It follows the story of a small, provincial town that’s approached by a man from the city who promotes industrializing the town.
Trouble comes when the industrialization pollutes the lake in the center of the town, and a monster emerges and tells the people to stop — otherwise, the townspeople will die.
“It’s crazy because [Kramer] wrote the play six or seven years ago, but it brings up all these issues that are now at the forefront of our political climate,” Roe said. “Issues like the Dakota pipeline, climate change, nationalism, immigration are all addressed.”
Roe directed the show in 2011 when Kramer was selected to take it Perth as part of the New York Public Theatre’s Emerging Writer’s Group.
Kramer originally wrote the show as a one-woman show, but in 2016, Renskers suggested the team turn it into a one-man show; Roe is now the actor and producer.
“It was lots of fun being on the other side of it,” Roe said. “I was an acting major but I was able to do a lot of different things, and now I can do them all professionally.”
The group took the show to the New York International Fringe Festival, and it won the Fringe Favorite Award. They were approached by a woman from England who suggested they enter the play and try to get into the Prague International Fringe Festival.
Roe found out on Election Day that the show was accepted to the festival, which only features 40 shows from around the world.
At the festival, the play had a complete crew of 18 people, and eight of them were Ball State alumni. The show can be run by four people, but it’s too expensive to take everyone to Prague, Roe said.
That’s where the idea to bring it to Muncie came in.
Originally, the show’s set is a white piece of fabric with slides projected onto it. The slides are all paper cut-outs and need to be changed manually. In order to go to Prague, the show needs to be more portable and have the ability to be run by two people.
Roe is collaborating with the animation department at Ball State in order to digitize and animate the paper slides. Professor John Ludwick and two animation students took on the project, with the help of a mini grant from the College of Fine Arts.
Sebastian Gardenhire and Patrick Rieth are both senior animation majors. They used the Adobe software After Effects and Illustrator to complete the project.
They took pictures of the paper slides and put them in Illustrator, and made them into separate layers, Rieth said. Then they put those layers into After Effects to put in animation.
The animations include a moving river and a chimney with smoke coming out of it.
“It creates an atmosphere,” Gardenhire said.
Roe and Renskers will use the new animations at their workshop performance Saturday at the North American Laboratory for the Performing Arts. Roe said he wants to create an experience for the audience.
“First it’s at this creepy old mansion, then we’re turning out all the lights and making the audience find their way to the attic on their own with flashlights,” Roe said.
Although the attic can only hold about 35 people, Roe isn’t worried.
“It’s a very intimate show,” he said. “I’m all in your face. I only have two props in the whole show, a chair and a backpack.”
After the performance, Roe and Renskers will have a talkback from the audience in order to get feedback. Between then and the end of May when they leave for Prague, they’ll be in New York City putting the final touches on the show.
Roe said he hopes to eventually open a “full-scale installation production” in New York.
“I want it to be an experiential, immersive show,” Roe said. “I want a big, creepy, dilapidated warehouse where we can spread dirt all over the floor and create what it would feel like to be in the woods listening to this creepy story.”
For now, though, students will be able to experience the creepiness right here in Muncie.