For the second year now, Tufts’ Department of Theater, Dance, and Performance Studies and Company One Theatre have collaborated to put on a reading workshop of a play with Tufts students. This year’s workshop was “Morning, Noon, and Night.”
“Morning, Noon, and Night,” a new, in-the-works play written by Kirsten Greenidge and set to hit the stage in 2024, is still in the very early stages of workshopping. Broken up into three acts — the morning, noon and night — the workshop explores generational differences and the relationship between Mia and her daughter, Dailyn. It is set in the “in-betweens” of spaces such as small foyers and bus stops, and takes place in the immediate aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic.
This play tests the boundaries between reality, virtual life and magical realism. With heavy descriptions of social media, the perfect Instagram life and modern technology use, this show allows for design elements that can transcend the usual theater set. The character of Miss Candace challenges the balance between what’s real and what isn’t and influences the entire plot of the show.
With a small cast of five, Greenidge is able to develop strong relationships between her characters that shine in the smallest ways. Mia (Rachel Cognata) and Dailyn (Chance Walker) obviously have their differences, but their mother-daughter bond and genuine love are clear. Chloe (Jennifer Brown) shows how much she cares for Dailyn in small gestures, cheering her up when she needs it most. Heather (Becca Lewis) not only brings moments of comedy to the workshop but also has several layers of complexity — real fears many can relate to leaving the pandemic. And finally, Miss Candace (Christa Brown) brings mystery to the show while also acting as a significant plot device to encourage movement and growth.
What is most interesting about this play and Greenidge’s writing is that even though the end goal of Act 3 seems to be to get all the characters in one location for the big birthday party, the birthday girl is not a character herself. In this workshop, Alex does not make a physical appearance in the “Morning” or “Noon” acts and instead is developed and described through other characters and their actions. We learn all we can about Alex through phone calls, Mia’s character and her mothering tendencies and even how Chloe interacts with Dailyn.
This use of characterization works surprisingly well in Greenidge’s story, but one can only wonder where it goes from here as Greenidge moves into Act 3, “Night.”
The most powerful part of this workshop is its analysis of how people have been fundamentally changed by the COVID-19 pandemic. Everyone from young teens to older mothers has felt the repercussions of the pandemic, and society seems to stop for years.
For Dailyn, the pandemic seems to have — at least in part — made her cynical about the world. Claiming that the world was 12 years from ending anyways and criticizing environmental crises spurred on by current culture and society, Dailyn represents the crushing fears young people feel when looking around at a world that seems to be moments away from dying.
Heather, however, seems overly positive, ready to start moving and not stopping as the world comes back outside. In truth, Heather has her own struggles readjusting to life after the pandemic because as a mother, the pandemic is not over for her. She is extra conscious of everything she touches, sanitizing her body multiple times. And she never stops, constantly looking for that distraction, that movement to keep her from spiraling down into the darkness.
“Morning, Noon, and Night” does a simply wonderful job of exploring just how intense fear can be. Greenidge makes excellent use of stage directions, read by Maxwell Bennett, in order to describe how it can creep up on you, multiplying slowly but steadily.
Any theatre lover or aspiring playwright should take advantage of open readings and workshops such as these. Here, you learn so much about the writing process itself and how ideas can come at the most unlikely times. To hear from the playwright and the cast’s inspirations and intentions behind characters — even in an unfinished story — sheds light on how to not only build good characters but also a whole world. Workshops such as these strip down the intimidating task of writing and make it clear that the writing and workshopping is a continuous process. And sometimes, like Greenidge, you’re still writing new parts the night before your big reading.
“Morning, Noon, and Night” is a show everyone should be keeping on their radar as it continues to be developed and move through changes.
For Tufts students interested in theater, these Company One and TDPS collaborations are a wonderful opportunity to be involved in local theater. By working as a cast member or simply taking the time to attend readings, students can bridge the gap between college and local theater.