William Shakespeare will never be around to field questions from budding Carthage actors. Luckily for them, Laura Jacqmin is.
The award-winning playwright wrote Ghost Bike specifically for the students and has sat in on rehearsals to help refine their portrayal of the characters in the play. The play was staged in February 2012 in the Wartburg Auditorium.
“It’s been awesome to get the input of the actual writer,” said Kathiamarice Lopez, ’15, a theatre performance major from Kenosha who is among the lead actors in Ghost Bike.
She plays Ora, who refuses to let go of her best friend Eddie after he is hit and killed by a car while riding his bike. During a recent rehearsal, she and fellow actors Mitch Weindorf, Derek Nelson and Elodie Senetra practiced scenes in which Ora meets Eddie and his new friends in the underworld.
“He’s gone. He’s gone. Seeing him doesn’t change that,” Ms. Jacqmin explained to Kathiamarice, summing up the nuanced emotions her character feels at that moment.
Because actors most often land roles in new plays early in their careers, the work onGhost Bike gives Carthage students a career boost, Ms. Jacqmin said. She’s been happy with the willingness of the actors to incorporate changes she or Prof. Herschel Kruger, the director and Theatre Department chair, have suggested.
“You have to be a really strong, really flexible actor to do that,” she said.
The play explores what happens after people die and how their surviving loved ones cope. Seeing numerous ghost bikes — memorials to bicyclists killed in car accidents — near her home in Chicago sparked the idea.
Ms. Jacqmin, who twice in recent years taught playwriting courses at Carthage, asked students to submit videos of themselves answering questions about death. Those responses formed the backbone of her play.
Some students made funny videos, while others choked up when describing their experiences, she said. The visual medium was chosen purposely.
“When you ask somebody to write, I don’t think it comes across in their voice,” Ms. Jacqmin said. “It feels like an assignment, as opposed to something more honest.”
A 2008 winner of the Wasserstein Prize for emerging female playwrights, Ms. Jacqmin has returned periodically to Carthage as part of the Theatre Department’s visiting artist program. Watching her script be translated to the stage has benefited her as a writer, too, notably allowing her to rewrite various segments of the play.
“Once I saw it, it didn’t actually work,” she said of one scene she had written. “You’re never going to know that unless you’re in the room.”
Ghost Bike doesn’t just test students’ flexibility as actors. Because much of the play takes place on bikes, it also tests their dexterity. The students joked they had to memorize their lines more quickly than usual because they couldn’t keep their hands on both a script and the handlebars.