Identity, grief, and self-discovery at the heart of upcoming UI play, ‘Sirens of the Field’

The play, which addresses identity and navigating relationships, will be uploaded for viewing on the Theatre Department’s website on March 27.


Grace Smith

Raven, played by Emma Kohlenberg, watches as Poe, played by Ellie Turk, looks out the window during the “Sirens of the Field” dress rehearsal in Thayer Theatre in the Theatre Building on Wednesday, March 17, 2021. “Sirens of the Field” is a student written and directed play; written/co-directed by Brett Stone, and co-directed by Jivani Rodriguez. There will be a virtual performance of “Sirens of the Field” on Saturday, March 27, at 8:00pm.

Abby McCusker, Arts Reporter

UI student Brett Stone was sitting in their childhood bedroom in Ames, Iowa, overlooking the highway, when they first compared the sound of cars driving by to the song of the Sirens from Greek mythology. Their upcoming play, *Sirens of the Field,* came into being from these sounds, inspired by the vivid way seemingly mundane details can appear to those who are struggling with mental wellbeing.

The student-written and directed workshop production goes live online on March 27, and features themes of identity, navigating relationships, and feeling trapped in “something you are not.”

Now-fourth-year student Stone also co-directed the production alongside their longtime friend and fellow fourth-year Jivani Rodriguez. The duo’s small cast of four featured in the production all play more than one character, which Stone intended in order to convey the production’s messages of leading multiple lives and struggling with personal identity.

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“I really wanted to create something that dealt with gender that speaks on this in a more artistic way,” Stone said. “I wrote with a lot of theatrical elements in mind, like double casting, and I was really trying to capture this feeling of what it is like to live in a smaller town where you don’t have a lot of freedom to be what you want to be.”

Greg Jones, who plays the character of Salem in the production, auditioned for the play back in November, when the general audition process for the spring season took place. This school year, students submitted a video of themselves acting out a monologue, then later attended individual callbacks for the shows interested in potentially casting them. Students are also able to rank the productions that most interest them, Jones said.

Jones said that it was Stone’s writing style that drew him to this particular production.

“I’ve known Brett, the playwright, for two or three years, and I’ve worked with them before on another show,” Jones said. “Their style of writing is very poetic in a way that is still very easy to approach both as an actor and from an audience’s perspective. Their style of writing carries a lot of emotion that is easy to access for most people.”

Rehearsals for the production occurred primarily over Zoom, with one week of in-person rehearsals before the production was filmed to be uploaded to the Theatre Department’s website on March 27. To combat the lack of togetherness the cast faced, Rodriguez and Jones said they engaged in a bonding activity called “happy, crappy” at the beginning of every rehearsal, where they emphasized the “happiest” and the “crappiest” things that had happened during their day.

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Rodriguez noted that she wanted actors to have a pleasant experience working on this production despite the circumstances.

“I hope that the process is enjoyable and worthwhile for the actors and the team because Zoom is so draining, and it is very hard to connect when you cannot be with someone in the room,” she said. “The theater magic really thrives in person and not all the time through virtual formats. I want them to have a good time and feel like they’re working out their actor muscles, having fun, and feeling like they’re working towards something meaningful.”

Stone said they hope the audience uses the play as a way to analyze their own relationships with themselves and others going forward.

“I really want people to consider how they interact with people and how they interact with themselves and how their mental health plays into that,” Stone said. “I want them to find room to see how people change and try to consider why people change.”