That is one reader’s entire review on Goodreads.com for Dennis Kelly’s play, “After the End.”
Another said this: “Wow… This is a f***ed up play. A bit difficult to read, but it would be amazingly juicy to work on.”
It's no wonder that these ambitious students were interested in the play as an independent study project.
“COVID-19 definitely inspired our decision to do this show,” says Eli Owens, class of 2022. “We talked about a lot of different pieces, but there are so many factors we needed to keep in mind to responsibly put on a show during a pandemic, so a lot of traditional written-for-the-stage theatre was ruled out.”
Early on in the pandemic, I wanted to begin workshops on my new play. I posted on FaceBook asking for actors; Eli was one of the first to respond. He recruited Britta Rae Cowan, a classmate, to help.
They were perfect, both inhabiting the roles I’d written effortlessly and with magical chemistry. So, when I heard they were teaming up for this new project, I was beyond intrigued.
Besides, I’m dying to write about theatre again.
“This story is different than what we have experienced during quarantine from COVID, but it puts a lot into perspective, which is why I think this is a perfect time to do this piece,” Britta explains.
Eli continues. “Isolation and its effects on the human mind is a huge through-line in ‘After the End.’ It’s been interesting finding the parallels between our personal lives, quarantine, and the isolation our characters experience within the show.”
In the musical theatre program, the focus is more on musicals. Eli and Britta wanted to work on a straight play, though, and they wanted to do it together.
“Ever since freshman year, I have wanted the opportunity to work with Eli. We both have a love for acting and it simply seemed like a waste to not put on a show.” As to Eli, “I love how encouraging he is in the room, and together, we have created a space to play, experiment, and fail. I’m so thankful for him!”
Eli is equally complimentary. “Our approach to new material is very similar, and I’ve always admired Britta’s style and work ethic, so it seemed fitting to tackle ‘After the End’ together.”
Not only is the material challenging, but producing a play during COVID-19 has been difficult. “We also needed to find a show we could successfully perform in a sight-specific location, preferably outdoors (in our case, a parking garage).”
“After the End’s two-person cast size, site-specific ability, and little need for stagehands or full tech made it an extremely attractive choice for pandemic theatre.”
The independent study is supervised by Professor Katie Johannigman, who directed the refreshing “Theory of Relativity” and “Godspell,” and is well-regarded by her students. I consistently and overwhelmingly hear how encouraging she is.
“Britta and I work the show independently throughout the week, then we present our work to Katie at the end of the week, and she gives us her professional input. The process has been super collaborative, and we’ve been very grateful to have her experienced eyes on the project.”
As to the play itself, “After the End” received its world premiere in 2005. The synopsis:
They were all in the pub when the explosion happened. Louise wakes up to find herself trapped with Mark, who has saved her life. Mark is always prepared for the worst and has everything he thinks they will need to survive; tinned chilli, Dungeons and Dragons and a knife — now all they need to do is to wait until it’s safe to go outside. Can they survive the attack? Can they survive each other?
Britta says, “Putting on a show in a parking garage is pretty wacky, but during a global pandemic, we had to get creative.” Britta says, “It was a blessing in disguise because the garage creates an environment that makes the audience feel uneasy, out of place, and isolated. It’s one thing to do a show about being underground in a beautiful theatre; it’s a completely different thing to actually put everyone underground.”
Eli adds, “It’s a hard, uncomfortable, claustrophobic show, but playing opposite your friend and classmate makes the work so much easier.”
The show will be performed for invited guests this Friday at 6:30 and 9:00 PM. If you’re interested in attending, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
I’m excited to see what these two talented actors do with this piece but also their careers. What I love most is following the careers of people who continue their craft in Cincinnati and beyond.
Eli says that once he graduates — and showcases in NYC with his class — he’ll move to New York and pursue a career in acting and theatre. “I’m really interested in TV and film, so I’m looking to explore that side of the entertainment industry as well.”
Britta says COVID has given her new insights. “In this crazy time of COVID, I am learning that my goals aren’t nearly as specific as I thought they were.” She, too, wants to move to NYC, but she’s found a love for writing and directing and wants to explore those avenues, also. “No matter what, I know I will be doing something creative with my life because nothing brings me more joy!”
Nothing gives me more joy than seeing people pursue their dreams. These two have what it takes; I can’t wait to see what comes next.