Some performers set out to inspire their audience, others to captivate.
May it be eye-opening, electrifying or ridiculously hilarious, everybody loves a good show. The imaginative Kara Dotten, junior theatre major at UVa-Wise, managed to give her audience just that, as well as a giant balloon birthed from a couch cushion.
Lamp shades, wooden stilts, a remote-controlled present and plenty of creativity were some of the props used to bring Dotten’s idea to life in “Mock & Mummery.” The show was co-created with Michael McNulty, professor of theatre arts at UVa-Wise. Over the summer, the duo researched, traveled and cultivated a plan to put on a great show. With over 90 eager audience members squeezing into the Black Box Theatre on the opening night, it is safe to say the show was a success.
The show was comprised of ten skits, all focused to reflect and explore acts of humanity. “As human beings, we engage in mummery on a daily basis,” Dotten stated. “We wear costumes, adopt identities and engage in ritualistic behavior as a way of giving meaning to our existence. We forget that we, like children, have powerful imaginations and that these collective conceptions can shape our society for better or for worse.”
The inspiration behind “Mock & Mummery” began when Dotten was introduced to Mummenshanz, a Swiss mask theatre troupe. After reading works by Jerzy Grotowski and John Wright on similar subject matter, Dotten acquired the right amount of audacity and confidence to create her own.
McNulty and Dotten started the project in April 2016, funded by the Summer Scholars Research program. The months that followed consisted of plenty of creative inspiration and hard work.
“I was thrilled to work on this project because, often times, after really involved semesters of doing really hard work for the theatre department and getting to really put all of my creativity and love for performance to use,” Dotten conveyed. “I find that summer can be really anti-climactic, and I find myself getting bored easy, so I can’t wait to work again.”
McKenna Blevins, Lorraine Dresch, Bailey Helbert, Logan Patrick and Max Stuker worked backstage for the show.
According to Dotten, the organic and authentic process of working on this project with McNulty was a nice change to the general process of theatre. “In general, the director gets to make all of the decisions, and cast members are expected to respond to those decisions, but one of those differences was that I felt that I genuinely got to share the work pretty evenly,” Dotten said. “We worked well off of each other; it was a symbiotic relationship — bouncing ideas back and forth — before we arrived at what we think is a pretty satisfying end result.” Dotten ended by noting how the UVa-Wise theatre department encourages students to pursue their artistic passions by taking independent studies and working autonomously to fulfill individual goals. “Genuinely, I’ve felt the most artistically fulfilled this summer than I have ever felt.”