‘Petals of Stone’ first of student, faculty readings promoting original play writing

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Words are the ultimate foundation of creating a story through imagination.

In the Black Box Theater in the Dolores Doré Eccles Fine Arts Building  March 18, three Dixie State University theater students performed a reading of the play “Petals of Stone,” an original one-act by associate theater professor Michael Harding. This event is one of several in upcoming weeks in order to promote creativity and original play writing.

Through more readings of student and faculty’s original work and audience feedback, Harding said he thinks it can make a change in the arts at DSU and in the community.

“We want to make sure the audience here realizes they are part of creating new theater,” Harding said. “That’s going to come down to [the audience’s] reactions to original works that are up here. We can all develop new theater in the next stage together.” 

“Petals of Stone” is set in the 1500s, although its story is not historically correct.

The play is based on the life of Lady Jane Grey when she was queen of England at the age of 16. In the play, Grey only saw her husband, Guildford, played by Matt Russell, a senior theater major from Las Vegas, when they were married and then when he was led to his death during their final days in the Tower of London. Their only communication was by sending messages back and forth by way of Grey’s servant, Elspeth, played by Tiffany Herzog, a sophomore theater major from Brigham City.

“Maybe it’s an arrogance on my part; I’m not sure, but I don’t feel compelled to stick with the facts,” Harding said. “They’ve already lived their lives. We can read the history books and find out what happened. I want to explore what would happen if.

The play is worded and told with a Shakespearean influence but sometimes still has a contemporary sound.

“This play is different because the characters are very connected, but they don’t connect initially,” said Becky Collins, a sophomore theater major from Brigham City, who plays the character of Grey. “I feel like it explores this different idea of being closed off to the world and the way that that inhibits you and the way that it can bring about so much misery.”

Although the play was a reading and not a full production, the words spoken were conveyed in a way that the story was still understandable.

“Action does happen in the play, but you only know it through their dialogue,” Herzog said. “You don’t see a lot of actual action happening, especially with the read-through work, which is (read) sitting (down.) It’s all about what you can portray just through conversation.”

An evening of short plays will bring together six plays written by students April 5. At the readings, much like what happened at the “Petals of Stone” reading, the audience will have a chance to give the play writers feedback and criticism. 

“As a reading, it’s more with the voice,” Russell said. “There’s not going to be much acting. Any emotion or storytelling by the actors is going to be purely through the voice … Each speed or tempo of the voice depicts a different emotion, and knowing what those emotions are and being familiar with your own voice is the best thing you can do for preparing for a play reading.”

The readings will continue April 5 at 7:30 p.m. in the Black Box Theater. Admission is free to the public.