by Alyssa Tirrell ’22

Arts & Culture Editor

Breathe deep, my love and Witness the joy and agony of small victories by Landin Eldridge ’21

Following Thursday, March 12th, students and professors adjusted to the ways in which long-term projects and plans were suddenly halted or postponed. Among these projects was The Refugees, a creative process that began in 2018 when playwright Steve Kaliski ‘07 accepted a visiting professorship in the College’s Theater Department. Preparations for the production included a research trip to Greece last summer, an on-campus workshop last August, casting in the fall, and six weeks of rigorous rehearsal. In the two weeks following spring break, the production intended to be fully prepared to share Kaliski’s artistic discourse about belonging with the broader Davidson community. 

“When the campus shutdown was announced, we were about two weeks out from the performance,” Kaliski recalled. “It was devastating.”

Karli Henderson, who produces Davidson’s five theater productions every year, noted the parallel impacts on the technical side of the theatrical project as well. “The designs were completely done,” she shared. In fact, the truck scheduled to move the set pieces to the Duke Family Performance Hall was moments from beginning to relocate the world of The Refugees to the venue where it would be brought to life. “Everything is sitting around in pieces,” Henderson said. 

Despite these challenges and disappointments, the Theater Department staff and faculty are utilizing their creative tools, sharpened by years of artistic work, to find new ways to exhibit The Refugees under these unique constraints. In addition to a live reading over Zoom on Friday, March 17th (the intended opening night), the department is hoping to slot a full performance of The Refugees for the fall of 2020. 

Cast member Maddie Wolfenbager ‘22 noted the relevance of The Refugees during the current pandemic. Initially, after the disappointment of the play’s postponement, Wolfenbarger reflected that she “had kind of disconnected from the play.” While participating in the Zoom reading last Friday however, she noticed new, real-life parallels between the play’s themes and current events. “Listening to some of the monologues in the context of what is happening here, I realized that this is applicable to our lives, right here, right now.” 

Visual art proves one form in which The Refugees has connected with individuals constrained to social isolation due to COVID-19. Cast member Landin Eldridge ‘21’s drawing and small multi-medium weave reflect particular themes and lines from the show that spoke to her in relation to the recent live-stream.  

Both Henderson and Kaliski highlighted the silver linings of the current situation: from making The Refugees accessible across geographic distances to heightening public awareness about  the importance of art in daily life, they are determined to not only continue maintaining, but centering artistic work in a time of crisis.