With the help of faculty at Binghamton University and a professional theatre company in the Berkshires, one BU junior has created a play to explore the fears within student experiences.
Margaret Leisenheimer attempted to figure out a way to use the power of theatre and the language of Shakespeare in to free us from our own judgments. While at BU, she said she took note of the pressure on college students to do well. As a result, during her summer as part of the Summer Scholars and Artists Program, she created a one-woman performance, “Diverged,” a creative piece that she said she hoped would leave the audience with “a sense of freedom to fail gloriously and not see it as a bad thing.”
The 20-minute performance, which took place this past Saturday in Studio B in the Fine Arts Building, was the culmination of her summer work. As Leisenheimer said, by pairing her own experiences and childhood with Shakespearean texts, the performance took on “an anecdotal sense.” She performed before a packed theater, portraying different characters and scenes throughout her life in which she felt judged.
In one scene, she plays both her second-grade self and her teacher as she fails to complete a math problem correctly. Later, she plays her high school self and another teacher, in a scene in which she is embarrassed and shamed for accidentally breaking a piece of camera equipment while helping a friend. These short snippets show Leisenheimer’s personal history with judgment and how she has grown to a place of acceptance.
Leisenheimer admitted to being nervous about the summer program and the piece, and included this anxiety in the piece itself.
“I was scared at first because I didn’t know what [the piece] was going to be and it was the first thing I created on my own,” she said.
Leisenheimer conducted her research for and wrote the play at Shakespeare & Company, a performance, training and education center in Lenox, Massachusetts, that specializes in Shakespearean values and works. Here, she worked 15 hours every day, six days a week, on individual and partnered presentations, studying voice and movement, experimenting with stage fighting and clown work and rehearsing monologues and sonnets. While growing there as an actress and an artist, Leisenheimer developed her play and rehearsed it by sending videos back and forth with Anne Brady, professor of theatre at BU, to receive feedback and guidance while she was away.
Leisenheimer hopes that through “Diverged,” the audience is able to “recognize the judgments we make of ourselves, through the words of Shakespeare and accept them.” In the play, she hopes to encourage the audience to be brave in the face of fears.
“Take those risks and go those places,” Leisenheimer said.