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GOSHEN -- Pay no attention to the couple playing keep-away on either side of the audience's chairs. It's all part of the show.
Members of Goshen College's Site Specific Performance class ended a three-week theater course with a performance Tuesday at a vacant Main Street storefront in Goshen. The class taught students to draw inspiration from their surroundings, and the store served as the catalyst for their play.
The 30-minute play was based on the future and the fears and anxiety that come with it. The plot revolved around a man debating whether to use the store to open a business and two people who used the store for shelter. Members of the audience were part of the scene, and the actors routinely raced around them: Spectators served as a dividing line as characters fought over a $100 bill.
Typically a script is the first part of a play to come together. But the class, which was part of Goshen College's May term, changed the order. The plays the class studied were based on their environment, and the students' scripts were based largely on the designs, locations and contents from their surroundings.
The class learned to put together scripts on the fly. They took 12 minutes to make a two-minute play, then a day to make a 10-minute play.
Work on the script for Tuesday's project didn't begin until Friday night.
The Main Street store was one of three locations the class liked for its final show. Other possibilities: Tommy's Kids Castle in Goshen and a bridge near the Old Bag Factory.
Ben Jacobs, one of the directors, said the empty store won out because of what it represented. An empty store on Main Street brings anxiety with it. Will it ever be filled again? What will happen to that business? In many ways, he said, it represents the anxiety people in Elkhart County are feeling from the economy.
Students led directing, script-writing and set-design efforts. They worked quickly but were still piecing things together shortly before Tuesday's 3 and 7 p.m. performances.
"They didn't know what was going to happen until 11:30 a.m. today," class instructor Michelle Milne said on Tuesday.
Members of the class have a variety of academic backgrounds: theater, art, history or English.
Milne said the principles of the site-specific class are relevant to students of any background. The themes of writing, collaboration and inspiration have multiple applications.
And despite the eventful planning sessions, Milne said the result is practically always the same.
"What amazes me about this process is that it always comes through," she said.