Workshop performance of Monument (Four Sisters) commemorates the everyday

A monument for little things in life The workshop performance of the play Monument (Four Sisters) asks us to consider what makes a legacy.

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Workshop performance of Monument (Four Sisters) commemorates the everyday

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Lauren Arzbaecher, Arts Reporter

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Dinosaur-shaped vitamins, reproduction processes of coral, and cartoon sloths. These seemingly absurd details created the core of the workshop play Monument (Four Sisters), which was produced in the Theater Building’s Thayer Theater on June 13 and 14.

When playwright Sam Chanse began to write the play in December 2018, she considered what constitutes a monument. In a time fraught with debate over the future of the world and what we leave behind, legacy was an important focus, she believed. She argued that everyday things, such as relationships among sisters, deserve to be commemorated just as much as the biggest celebrity or historical event.

“Four sisters and the desire to write about a community of women were part of the things that led my ideas for the play,” Chanse said. “How women relate to each other, support each other, long for each other, hurt each other, or are there for each other, is in the DNA of the play.”

The show centers on the lives and relationships of four sisters. Up against a myriad of obstacles, from challenging jobs to lost romantic partners, they struggle through life together. Events of the plot not only create an engaging story but comment on larger issues, including underrepresentation of women and minorities in the media, sexual harassment, and environmental degradation.

Interwoven with the sisters’ story are scenes from a children’s television show written by one of the sisters that follows the adventures of four cartoon sloths. On a comedic journey to decipher the markings on an ancient tablet, the sloths band together to understand them. The balance between the world of the sisters and the worlds of the sloths heighten the emotional effect of the show.

“There are elements of the sisters’ history and the things they are concerned or preoccupied with that inform the undercurrents of the sloths’ world but in a really under the surface way,” Chanse said.

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Monumentwas performed as part of the Summer Partnership with the Arts, an initiative of the UI Theater Department that brings guest artists to campus to work with students to create new theatrical pieces. In just three and a half weeks of rehearsals, the creative team explored several different iterations of the show. One version featured four actors playing numerous roles; the final, performed version comprised a seven-person cast.

“For me, it was kind of an unlocking of how the play moves,” said director Jade King Carroll. “Not just with a seven-person versus a four-person cast, but having three extra minds asking questions was really helpful.”

The workshop style allowed more flexibility for the cast and crew, Carroll said. Lines, blocking, and scenic design were tweaked right up until the time of performance. The extent of collaboration in part made the show so special to cast member Amy Miller Martin.

“We played,” Miller Martin said. “That speaks not just to the physical work that we did but the general approach of this entire process. It’s so important for an actor to be reminded of that. This is why you go, why you do a show, why you come to rehearsal. It’s not to have dissected and analyzed everything, it’s to play.”

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