School of Theater’s 'The Originals!' introduces student works to the campus community

students performing before an audience
"The Originals!" six plays were performed at Theatrespace in September and recorded for watching online on Mason Arts at Home. Photo by Shayla Brown/Strategic Communications

The Originals! is an annual production within George Mason University’s School of Theater that showcases the writing, acting, and directing skills of the creative students of the College of Visual and Performing Arts. This year six amazing plays were put on in de Laski Performing Arts Building TheaterSpace. Read all about them here:

“Merry, Bright, etc.”

Written by Zoe Harr and directed by Erin Birchfield

In this play excerpt, a young man named Ben struggles to connect with a girl he likes, who works as an elf in same mall that he does. She is only known as “The Hot Elf” and has no idea that Ben exists.

“Ben is my definition of a loser,” said Harr, who wanted to explore the concept of an unlikeable protagonists. “Someone who, as an audience member, you’re kind of stuck with. Someone who you root for him in the play, but wouldn’t be friends with in real life.”

Ben lives with his friend, Lisa, who acts as a driving force that helps him step outside himself.  Throughout this scene, Ben is trying to break out of this mold of being this guy who can’t even talk to a girl he likes, but constantly puts his foot in his mouth.

“I don’t think he necessarily succeeds in the sense that he gets exactly what he wants,” said Harr, “but he succeeds in the sense that he is actually able to make a connection.”

Will he get the hot elf’s name? And do you need to achieve a goal completely in order to win?

“The Great American Class Interactive Experience (GACIE)”

Written by Sarah Strunk and directed by Caroline Austin

The concept of GACIE came to Strunk as she scrolled through Tik Tok, she said. There were interesting nuances within the relationship of a couple who came from completely different backgrounds. Young couple, Christian and Gwen, participate in an interactive experience. The game is filled with tension as the couple step into new territory and are exposed to their different upbringings, as well as comic relief in the form of Nella Hautala’s performance as the Elevator/ticket seller/game master.

“Seven Years’ Time” 

Written by Dyllan Hutchison and directed by Jeremy Pritchard

Seven Years’ Time is a story about a girl named Lucy who turns 20 and finds a letter from seven years ago. She calls her own phone number, and when her 13-year-old self answers, the conversation that follows is inspiring. Hutchinson’s take on society’s fear of growing older as well as self-love and confidence takes place in this sentimental yet entertaining phone call between 13-year-old Lucy and 20-year-old Lucy.

“It was a lot self-reflection and trying to figure out who I used to be, who I am, and who I want to be in this new stage of my life,” said Hutchinson. “It was a really special experience for me.”

The characters are also surrounded by different versions of Lucy’s mom and dad, also seven years apart. Reflection on the past is something that connects the audience to the performance.

“Robin’s Therapy”

Written by Brett Womack, directed by Annie Graninger and musical direction by Brett Womack

The only musical in the bunch, “Robin’s Therapy” tells the story of Robin’s journey going to see Dr. Prue Warwick every day. With Womack on the piano as the story unfolds, Robin and her therapist take us for a ride.

The musical element helps these characters to convey their thoughts and feelings toward the concept of therapy and whether it’s really effective. This conversation in song touches on so many questions about mental health and who to reach out to for help.

“This character is doing their best to committing to their resolution to improve their mental health even though they don’t necessarily know why they should and what they should do to get there,” said Womack.

The fear and hesitation a lot of individuals feel toward the idea of therapy is represented in a lyrical way that captures the audience and makes them think even after the story has ended.

“I Shouldn’t Have Stuffed My Muffin with Jelly” 

Written by Trevor Handlin and directed by Jo Arnett

There was a lot going on with this piece. It was unclear which way to look as characters interacted with one another. Some were strangers, and some were enemies. This play included shocking instances of murder and seemed to take place in an unknown apocalyptic setting.

It was funny, creepy, and bemusing. It had the most characters of any of the plays from “The Originals!” and everyone did their part. With the prize for most interesting name, “I Shouldn’t Have Stuffed My Muffin with Jelly” is one to see.

“Full Disclosure”

Written by Lillian Della Maggiora and directed by Shannon Rodgers

This story is about two women in a relationship that’s hit a rough patch. In the beginning, they are silent for much of the piece, portraying thoughts and emotions with their facial expressions in a way that was entertaining enough even without the dialogue the audience was likely expecting.

They walk around what is assumed to be a gallery of some kind, observing the art on the walls. When the conversation finally starts, it’s intriguing how genuine and beautiful it is. These women have an open and honest conversation. What’s more fascinating is that the story is not tied up with a neat little bow in the end. The ending is somewhat unexpected and unresolved.

If you missed these live performances, no worries! The School of Theater has released a video recording of all six plays. Check it out on Mason Arts at Home.