Grad Student’s Farce Lightens Students’ Hearts

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Cast and crew of Operation: Turkey Lurkey

As spring finally approaches, the pressure of midterms, projects and extracurricular responsibilities builds within the student body. Eight theatre graduate students have produced Operation: Turkey Lurkey to give the University community a lighthearted respite.

Ryan, a recent college graduate, deceives his parents into thinking that he is more successful than he really is. He believes his mother, a politician, and his father, an Ivy League professor, will be disappointed when they discover he is a gas station attendant.

When the responsibility of hosting Thanksgiving dinner lands on Ryan’s shoulders, his friends decide to help. The evening unravels as incidents and complications occur. Will his parents find out the truth?

Students, faculty and staff are invited to the four performances of Operation: Turkey Lurkey at 7:30 p.m on March 4–6 and at 4 p.m. on March 6 in Performance Hall. Purchase tickets online or by calling Programs & Productions at (864) 770-1372.

An Idea is Born

David Veatch, a second-year graduate student, has always loved the art of storytelling. He grew up writing plays and acting out stories. “In senior year, I got to direct my first play. It was a rendition of Jack and the Beanstalk. That was the moment when I knew that was what I wanted to do for the rest of my life,” Veatch said.

When his class started to brainstorm for their thesis project, Veatch started writing new plays. Throughout that process, he worked with Meghan Reimers, a theatre faculty member, who served as his mentor.

“We would read a play during the first part of the week and then she would send me a writing prompt. I had to write a two-act play based on the prompt and have it turned in by Sunday night,” Veatch said.

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During the last week of school, Reimers instructed Veatch to write a farce — a comedic, dramatic theatrical work that uses buffoonery and horseplay. Inspiration struck during his shift as a graduate assistant at Programs & Productions during the last showing of The Tempest during the fall semester.

“I was really looking forward to Thanksgiving, and I knew I had to write a farce. I don’t really know any great Thanksgiving plays off the top of my head that are funny, so I decided to write the first,” Veatch said.

There were several plays that were finalists, but the graduate theatre class chose to produce Operation: Turkey Lurkey. Since then, Veatch has written eight drafts with the help and feedback of his professors.

“New plays take a leap of faith. How do you convince people to direct, design and act in a show that no one’s ever seen before?” Reimers said. “At the end of the day, it is the graduate students’ commitment and hard work that is making this play a reality. They’ve decided that Operation: Turkey Lurkey is a story worth telling.”

Getting the Show on the Road

Because of COVID-19 restrictions, the theatre department had to place a limit on the number of students that could participate in the production. Along with the eight graduate students, a few undergraduate students worked on this project and were essential to bringing it to the stage.

One of those students was Kayley Baker, a senior studying theatre who is the stage manager and assistant director. “This is a big show so it has taken a true army to get it on stage. It has required weekly production meetings, several late-night work days a week, several rehearsals, and countless emails to cast and crew. It is a nonstop job, for sure,” Baker said.

Operation: Turkey Lurkey had to go through several steps to be ready for the stage. Dr. Erin Naler, theatre department head, has worked alongside the students to help them through the collaboration and production process.

“The second-year (graduate) students collaborated on what jobs they and the first-year students would do for the show. They also collaborated through the pre-production and rehearsal process to get the show produced,” Naler said.

Most of the students in a production role are also acting, and they hope Operation: Turkey Lurkey will brighten the spirits of the student body.

“Because of COVID and everything that was going on at the time, last year was very difficult and dark. This year is about new beginnings,” Veatch said. “I hope the audience can have fun and takes the opportunity to sit back and enjoy the play.”