Theater and Performance Studies BA Projects

Emily Stevens

Artistic Project: Other Suns

Public Event: Screening of Other Suns with Q&A
Thursday, May 14th 6:30pm (CST) — Zoom link here

Biographical Statement
Emily Stevens lives in Plainfield, Illinois. They are an actor, costume designer, director, writer and inveterate Shakespeare enthusiast.

Artistic Statement
This project began life as a film script nearly two years ago. It has been shaped by the fact that I have been happily forced to take four astrophysics classes, watched productions of Marlowe’s plays in a jet-lagged haze, and never figured out what exactly it was I saw the BBC production of Good Omens doing with a drone at 11:30PM.

The original concept was a produced and polished film, shot on location with borrowed costumes, thoughtfully probing how theatre weaves together with cosmology and scientific inquiry.

The sand in the oyster, so to speak, was the moment in Doctor Faustus when Faustus becomes annoyed that Mephistopheles is describing an Aristotelian cosmology with the planets in fixed spheres and could not explain the retrograde movement of planets. Marlowe wanted to make the demon’s orthodox recitation of the spheres look like it was wrong. Obviously, irritatingly wrong.

I was interested in looking at Christopher Marlowe when he was our age—beginning graduate school, having to argue with the administration, letting his friends use his university dining plan when was away being an international spy, as one does.

These same years are famously absent from the historical record of Shakespeare’s life.

Reading biographies of Christopher Marlowe, Giordano Bruno and John Dee I was struck by moments when the authors were openly or artfully Making Things Up. The script I wrote bears a similar relationship to historical fact.

Driven as much by quarrelsome nature as conviction in their ideas, these are prickly characters. I wondered if they would get on like a house on fire and came to the conclusion that, no, they probably would not.

In the autumn of 2019 I spent three months directing a play and building fifteen quasi-Elizabethan costumes. I had run out of potential summer afternoons and warm starry nights. Out of a long fascination with radio plays, the solution presented itself.

Spending so much time in the theatre, however, left a residue on the project. I was pursuing the feeling of sitting in a nearly empty theatre during a long day of technical rehearsal when time has stretched out and become meaningless. The lights are still too intense and the dialogue washes over you, weird and sparkling.

When this project was housed in the Logan Arts Center I was planning on creating a version of that space, mapping ambient light cues onto the audio drama. That is no longer an option. The ‘performance’ is in your space now.

So move around your blinds or curtains. If you’re sitting on a strange piece of wood from Ikea go find a cushion. Pull a pillow or a blanket off the bed. Make a cup of tea.

It’s a summer afternoon. The sun is coming through the trees in intense green-gold.

Artistic Project