Arts around campus: Q&A with senior Em Bledsoe

The biannual theatre department-sponsored lab shows are productions directed and designed entirely by students. The opportunities for creative freedom led senior Em Bledsoe, director of the fall lab show, to reconsider traditional theatrical motifs in favor of a more experimental viewing experience in the upcoming production of Sarah Kane’s “4.48 Psychosis.”

Anna Selle: What is “4.48 Psychosis” about?

Em Bledsoe: It was written in the last part of playwright Sarah Kane’s life in 1999. It has a lot of undertones of her suicide and depression. It’s about dealing with loss, dealing with self control — especially when you are depressed. There are different parts of you that are at war with each other, especially when you’re going through something intense and dealing with a mental disease. Each person is almost like a weird combination of juxtapositions and fallacies, and they don’t make sense on paper, but as a whole human being they do make sense. That’s what the show is about — dealing with these different specific parts of yourself and how they interact. It’s essentially a 35-page long free form poem that I’ve divided into three different characters.

AS: What is the format of this show?

EB: The show is divided into 24 sections, and these sections jump from prose to poetry to conversations between a psychiatrist and their patient. In what I have done, this show takes place between three characters. There’s a perpetrator, a victim and a bystander, and it is all about their relationship with one another. It involves choral elements of people speaking at the same time as well as monologues.

AS: What challenges does this format pose to you and the actors?

EB: The way that the poetry works is that there’s a lot of adjectives. It’s poetry in the sense that it isn’t grammatically correct always — it’s disjointed, it’s words on a page in a weird structure that as a director and as my actors, we have to find a way to make this disjointed poetic sense read to the audience as dialogue.

AS: What is the show going to physically look like to an audience?

EB: It will be different. The show provokes a lot of images, and there are images that I want the audience to see. It sounds really intangible, it sounds like it’s just going to be people standing on a chair reading poetry, but it really isn’t. There will definitely be a set, but it will be a little bit more avant-garde in the sense that it’s more expressive than literal. In essence, the show takes place in a person’s mind. The show is one person’s brain and the audience will be exploring that with the characters throughout the entire show.

AS: How have you been influenced by and how does your vision differ from past performances of this show?

EB: The biggest thing I’ve wanted to do is remove the melodrama, because the show is so expressive, and it’s so easy for the actors to emote for 70 minutes, but that isn’t intriguing. That isn’t what a person is, that isn’t the struggle. I feel like the show will be different because I’m looking to have real people on stage. And even though these people are manifestations of emotions, they’re still very real people. And I think that this will be a different show because it isn’t going to be people just crying for an hour. It’ s supposed to be a learning tool. It’s supposed to make everyone in the room feel like they better understand depression and the struggle of mental diseases. It’s going to have a lot more structure.

AS: What kind of exercises and methods will you and your actors use to achieve your creative goals for the show?

EB We’re going to be working with the view-pointing method, which was partially designed by Anne Bogart. It helps people relate physically with other people. It helps give people an instinct and desire to move. We’re focusing so much on movement and the shape of bodies and what we can show to the audience not just with words. It’s about a stage picture, which is something I don’t think you can explore with traditional theatre because traditional theatre is linear.