UI Theatre Arts’ Fall’s Eve explores trauma and healing on stage

First-time playwright and UI student Brett Stone tackles handling personal trauma in UI Theatre’s Workshop production of Fall’s Eve.


Nichole Harris

Acting as the characters of October and Nevada, Olivia Schneider and Sterling Isler discuss writing as a form of therapy during a dress rehearsal for Fall’s Eve on December 4th. Fall’s Eve, written by Brett Stone and directed by Aimee Townsend, opens on Dec. 6, 2019. (Nichole Harris/The Daily Iowan)

Kyler Johnson, Arts Reporter

As the light seeps into a dimmer and darker state with the approaching winter, the University of Iowa’s Theatre Department keeps its stage lights shining bright. In one of the departments last productions of the semester, playwright Brett Stone’s first piece, Fall’s Eve, takes the audience on an exploration of all the moody melancholy fitting of the season.

With an intimate cast of four characters, the piece takes a toss at dissecting an equally intimate and sensitive subject — the different ways people deal with trauma. Stone specifically seeks to focus on how trauma links itself to the concept of time.

“It started off of the idea of having four characters going through one day of their life that actually ends up being a month — but it’s not perceived as that until the end,” Stone said. “Traumatic experiences warp your perception of how time works.”

The four characters — Brooke, October, Dawn, and Nevada — are all high school-aged students, dealing with their own individual pain in their own individual ways. The names, symbolic of various seasons, hint at each of the characters’ natural responses and ways of being, drawing parallels between the outside world and human experience.

UI student Courtney Graham is making her début performance on the UI Alan MacVey stage in this production as Brooke. Graham said she finds a lot of beauty in the 80-page piece despite having such heavy themes. At the end of the day, Graham said what she finds most beautiful is the growth and healing in how the characters process what they have experienced.

“There’s a moment where my character, Brooke, breaks down and reveals everything she’s been going through to Dawn,” Graham said. “She pulls Brooke in for a hug despite going through her separate problem; it’s a moment of acceptance and embrace.”

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Graham said one other particular piece that makes this play stand out would be how the script seeks to seriously treat the characters struggles rather than resort to glorification. There is a touching sense of honesty and authenticity, Graham said.

Stone said they have experienced a massive amount of growth in developing their first piece. Having committed actors interact with the piece — both with relationships and the story — has been one of the most rewarding and helpful aspects of such a vulnerable process, Stone said.

“I think a lot about the stuff I write,” Stone said. “It’s things that you’re too afraid or don’t know how to say out loud or communicate, so you figure out how to have it expressed somewhere else.”

Stone said they have been allowed to craft numerous revisions as a result of being able to view actors engage with the piece firsthand.

“The best part is about watching the growth — seeing it from the first read through to the moment when the actors know where they are and what they’re going to wear and how they interact with one another,” show director Aimee Townsend said.

Graham said one of these additions written during the first week of rehearsals acts as one of the story’s ending notes. A poem — another one of the many firsts for Stone involving this piece — spoken by Nevada captures a sense of peace and the cozy flow emanating from the words.

“It’s a very sad and heartbreaking script,” Stone said. “But I hope people can see the moments of hope and happiness I put into it.”