t’s no surprise that it takes a village to put on a student-run production. But the village that built On The Verge; Or, The Geography Of Yearning was a little different—it’s unusually small, but incredibly close knit. The entire production was created by a group of just 14 students and one alum. That’s a pretty big feat considering the size and heart of the play.
On The Verge is directed by Cassie Chapados, MCAS ’17, whose love for Boston College theatre and the Dramatics Society has kept her involved even after she graduated. She returned to the Heights better than ever, with a year and a half of professional experience under her belt. This is the first time a Dramatics Society production has been directed by a BC alum, and the outcome has been ultimately positive.
“It’s been fun,” she said. “It’s super hard to get hired in the industry, so I try to stay involved at BC.”
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orking under her wing is assistant director Kyle Ronkin, MCAS ’21, whose love for theatre dates back to his pre-BC days. While he has plenty of experience as an actor, On The Verge provided him the opportunity to direct for the first time.
“It’s been super helpful as an actor,” Ronkin said. “I learned so much about how to have a good relationship with the cast, and I’ve probably become a better actor from it too.”
Like Chapados was during her time at BC, Ronkin is a member of the Dramatics Society, a student group “committed to developing talent and giving opportunities for theatrical expression in the Boston College community.”
“I knew that last spring, there weren’t a lot of students who applied to direct,” Chapados said. “I said, ‘I understand if you think it’s weird,’ but I applied and here we are.”
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n The Verge is the relevant story of three intrepid females traveling through the fictionalized last unexplored place on earth, Chapados said. She chose On The Verge because of its moral—the play emphasizes choosing what’s best for yourself and highlights the strong bond between three women. It reflects the difference, of feeling excited about versus frightened by the future, and emphasizes the validity of both.
“Throughout the play we experience time in a totally different way,” Chapados said. “It’s really zany and wacky, but it also has a lot of heart.”
Throughout the play, three women, Mary (Olivia Sheridan, MCAS ’22), Fanny (Christine Schmitt, MCAS ’20, who doubles as a production manager), and Alex (Debbie Aboaba, MCAS ’21), trek through terra incognita, or unexplored territory. But as they pass through various terrains and landscapes, and meet several distinct people (all played, quite comically, by Grant Whitney, MCAS ’21), they realize they are not only passing through space but also through time.
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he audience truly has to use their imaginations to understand the gist of the play. The three women illustrated the rough terrains and unique encounters they had while on their journey in a remarkable fashion, especially considering the simple, bare set. With this in mind, it was easy for the trio to convince the audience that they weren’t walking around BC’s Bonn Studio. Instead, they were cutting through untouched vegetation, mountain climbing in the Himalayas, and leaping over rivers.
While most of the cast had never heard of On The Verge, they instantly fell in love with the concept. They were incredibly enthusiastic about the prospect of a play in which three out of four characters were women.
“You know it’s going to be a great show when they ask you to yodel in the audition,” Sheridan said.
The setup of the studio itself allowed the audience to be fully immersed in the adventure. Seats surrounded the small stage on three sides, and characters would enter and leave through all four corners, rushing past audience members and often breaking the fourth wall.
During the entire play, but most noticeably about halfway through, the three women start finding objects and speaking phrases far ahead of their time (which is never mentioned explicitly, but likely circa-18th century). At some point or another, each finds a rotary whisk, an object so arbitrary that it conjured up laughter from the audience everytime a new one appeared.
As they travel through decades, each wants to stop and settle down at a different point. The element of choice is incredibly prevalent throughout—when Fanny falls in love and decides to stay in the ’50s, Mary is sad but decides to keep going, even though she knows they’ll never see each other again.
“It’s about the notion of continuing even when you don’t know what will happen next,” Sheridan said. “It’s perseverance and continuing despite nerves or reservations.”
Every person involved seems to have a moral or take away from being involved with On The Verge. Similar to Sheridan, Chapados cites the play as a guidance as she navigates the world after graduation.
“Sometimes when you can do anything, you end up doing nothing,” Chapados said in the Director’s Note. “While [the characters] do not always know the right answer immediately, they ultimately always choose what is best for them because they know who they are.”
The cast was quick to point out just how much the play mirrored their lives, and those of countless others. Through On The Verge, the group of young actors and directors has grown as people and performers.
“The play is about three young women, who over the course of a few months, get to know each other really well,” Sheridan said. “It truly reflects our experience.”
Sheridan was quick to note how much On The Verge helped her find her place at BC. She grew to love the Dramatics Society so much in such a short amount of time that she plans on running to a part of the organization’s board soon.
“The first few days of college I hadn’t found my crowd yet,” Sheridan said. “Over time, On The Verge has exposed me to the crowd I want to be a part of.”
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t seems that a production can’t get any smaller, in terms of the amount of people involved, than On The Verge. Most of the actors had never been involved with such a tiny group of people, but they enjoyed the experience tremendously.
“In larger shows, you’re not called at the same time as everyone else,” Aboaba said. “But with this, we got to see each other every day.”
Aside from the immense enjoyability of working on a smaller production, the size of the play also helped them be more serious about the process as a whole. On a larger production, a cast member might have a back-up, or maybe they don’t rehearse every day.
“Especially in big-cast shows, it’s really hard to make bonds with people because it’s only temporary and you’re only with these people for a certain amount of time,” Aboaba said. “But it just so happened to be that this was a group that worked, and fit.”
“There’s definitely more responsibility and accountability,” Sheridan began. “There’s no understudies, and we’re each such a huge contributor…but it’s so much more rewarding because we all feel like we’re adding something significant.”
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he cast cites the amount of time spent rehearsing all together as one of the best aspects of working on On The Verge. The process for this particular play spans all the way back to the beginning of this school year. Auditions began the first weekend of classes (there were a total of four shows auditioning that weekend, so imagine trying for a few, or all, of them). They casted on Sunday, and started rehearsal that Monday, and haven’t stopped ever since.
“The best part of being involved with any show, especially in the BC Theatre department, is getting to spend 20-plus hours a week with your cast,” Schmitt said. “You’re making all these new friends and getting that shared experience that you can carry with you for the rest of your time here, as a freshman, sophomore, and beyond.”
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he inherent togetherness of On The Verge is what drove the cast forward. The close-knit group clicked from the start, and that level of personability allowed them to bond from a very early stage.
“It’s hard to get intimacy and personal connection in bigger shows,” Schmitt added. “I’ve been in two shows with Grant before, but I never got to talk to him in those, it was more difficult to connect. Each has its own merits.”
Whether a big or a small show, one thing is clear—the cast of On The Verge is passionate about theatre, the meaning of this production, and about their own personal friendship and bond with one another. Together, they are on the verge of the best takeaway from any show—the relationships that last long after the curtain closes.
Featured Image by Maggie DiPatri / Heights Staff