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Auburn Theatre & Dance students produce original show with UNIVERSES to close season

Student actor holding megaphone

The Department of Theatre & Dance will present "Dare WE Defend," an original work devised by Auburn students and the UNIVERSES Theatre Company, from April 18-21 in the Telfair B. Peet Black Box Theatre.

"Dare WE Defend," created by students with assistance from UNIVERSES Co-Founder Mildred Ruiz-Sapp, explores belonging through the story of Max, a student who finds family and community at college. Students hope audiences are moved to conversations about the importance of diversity and enjoy the show’s balance of layered and thought-provoking, abstract and whimsical portrayals of shared humanity.


Student performers laughing in costume


Asha Knight, a senior in performance, said the show reflects the work students did to expand their horizons and hear new perspectives.

"It's about communities that you know, communities that you love, that you've grown up with, that you've found family and love within, and the outside voices that can come in and disrupt the harmony," Knight said. "How do we move on from that? How do we have those tough conversations? How do we rebuild ourselves around what's happening?"

Ruiz-Sapp guided students through several strategies to build the show from scratch, including self-selecting a cast, writing poetry, practicing improv, exploring soundscapes and drafting monologues.

Kate Nymark, a first-year student in music theatre and economics, said sharing creative exercises with the student team helped bring the collaboration to life.

"After I wrote the monologue, coming back and hearing people read their stuff, everyone had such unique perspectives that they were so passionate about. There were so many voices from so many different places," Nymark said. "It was so early that we didn't have a show yet, but I was still like, 'Yeah, this is going to turn out.' That was definitely a big moment."


A staff member works on a lighting board


Ruiz-Sapp holds credits as an actor, singer, playwright, poet and songwriter, which made her invaluable to the creative process, but she hoped students took more than practical skills from the project.

"When I came in, I told them, 'Look, more important to me is your experience. The most important thing is: What are you going to walk away with?' The performance is secondary," Ruiz-Sapp said. "But to have them actually embodying a piece this quickly and going at it with everything they can, it's pretty impressive in only three weeks."

After three weeks, 18 students completed the first draft of a one-hour performance. Ruiz-Sapp said she was impressed by the level of dedication and collaboration exhibited by the students.

"I encouraged an open space and we wanted to honor everybody's voice in the room, so I think it made it really a comfortable place for them to be able to try things," Ruiz-Sapp said. "This is what they want to say. This is what they've created together. They've been in support of each other, and they've been very careful and conscious to take care of each other in the process."


Students discussing production


Bella Hardin, a senior in elementary education, worked on the show during evenings after teaching fifth graders during the day. Hardin said the Department of Theatre & Dance's culture of support and enthusiasm inspired her to return each day to finish the production.

"Something about the energy that everyone brings and constantly collaborating and creating is so uplifting and energetic that it doesn't feel like it's this huge task," Hardin said. "Everyone can find either themselves or someone they love in it, and I think we do a good job of highlighting very real perspectives."

To buy tickets or find more information on "Dare WE Defend," including showtimes, visit the Theatre & Dance website.

Tags: Theatre and Dance Students

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