Campus locations serve as stages for theatre group performances

It’s college acceptance season, and swarms of high school seniors are descending on campus for a tour of the U. But next week, those tours will have some competition as UM’s playwriting collective, Astonishing Idiots, will host a walking tour unlike anything you’ve ever seen.

Astonishing Idiots usually only puts on two shows each semester. This time, the playwrights decided to aim bigger and put on an additional “Tour de Force” event, a large final production of the semester with departing advisor Oren Safdie.

The eight one-act plays will feature longer scripts than the group’s previous works, and each will be set at a different locations around campus that the tour will stop at. These include the Shalala Student Center balcony, the food court, the IM fields and the Arboretum. The tour is free and will depart from Hecht Residential College at 6:30 p.m.

The writing process for these unconventional works was a unique experience for the playwrights, some of whom even wrote their scripts while at their chosen location. While some playwrights focused only on writing the acts, others also chose to perform in them.

“Rather than starting with characters or an idea or a line of dialogue, we actually had to start with the location,” said Adrian Corbo, a freshman whose play took place in a tree outside the School of Architecture. “The spaces all have very specific energies, and actually being there definitely influenced the way my scene came out.”

The plays went through an extensive rewriting process. The Astonishing Idiots read their scripts aloud and then exchanged notes among themselves and with their advisor before bringing back a new version the following week to repeat the cycle. When the scripts were close to completion, the groups practiced the plays on-site. Topics included a troubled friendship, substance experimentation, self-revelations in a relationship, reconnection with an old classmate and a marriage on the rocks.

With the culmination of their hard work this semester now on the horizon, the playwrights are thrilled to finally share their creations with a general audience. “Site-specific is a fairly new type of theatre experience that we’re excited to bring to the U,” Corbo said. “Some plays will make [the audience] laugh; all of the plays will make them think.”

If You Go:
What: Astonishing Idiots
When: Wednesday, April 6 at 6:30 p.m.
Where: Meets at the Hecht Residential College
Cost: Free