The new arts building that’s slowly coming along down the hill isn’t the only exciting arts happening Denison will welcome in the spring. Professor Peter Grandbois of the English department will also be working with students to block out a theatre adaptation of his book Nahoonkara.
The book, which upon its debut received several rave reviews and an award from Foreword Reviews, is far from conventional in terms of fiction, let alone in the vision Grandbois has for it on the stage. The story follows switches among several characters across time in both Wisconsin and Colorado. Regardless of the challenges that come with adaptation and the unusual style of the story, it was pretty clear to Grandbois after publishing the book that what he’d actually written was meant to be on stage, so he decided to get to work on writing the play.
“It felt like voices, it felt like there were voices talking to me in the book. When I look back at it, it felt like it was really a bunch of monologues in a way. And it is, and that’s what made it more difficult in a way to adapt because it wasn’t already inherently dramatic, but there were voices talking and it felt like it had this sort of natural dramatic structure,” Grandbois said.
With a script then in hand, Grandbois knew he still had his work cut out for him in figuring out how to make this play work for an audience. This is where Denison students come in. While Grandbois could have sought out professionals in the theatre world, and has to a limited extent with some staged readings, he decided that working with Denison students would be a way to bring his academic career and his artistic goals together.
This fall, he’ll be picking around ten students to do a paid workshop with him in May. This workshop will consist of brainstorming the blocking of scenes and how to bring what he’s written on the page to the stage. But students will have to be more than just idea people, Grandbois explained. Students will be acting a little bit, holding curtains, working on lighting and everything in between to try to imagine what this play should look like. The goal at the end of this: a performance testing out one of these ideas before Grandbois decides to take it to New York.
Grandbois insists that theatre folks aren’t the only candidates for this though. The only qualifications he’s looking for is creativity, and perhaps a lack of theatre background might lend itself for the job. After all, this isn’t your typical play, so students will be asked to think way beyond theatrical conventions. All with the passion and interest, regardless of experience, are encouraged to apply.
The deadline to apply is quickly approaching. Head to convergencescollective.org before November 16 to be considered for the job. Grandbois’ project can be found by clicking on “Nahoonkara” under the “projects” drop down menu.