BYU performers have shown grit and ingenuity in full force over the course of the pandemic. One example is TMA student Emily Trejo. When she found out she wouldn’t be able to produce and direct the play “Suffrage” in the way that she’d originally planned, it didn’t take her long to adapt. Trejo decided to put on a radio play.
The audio performance of “Suffrage” was available online October 15–17 on 4th Wall Dramaturgy. Audience members were encouraged to visit Pioneer Village in Provo as they listened to the story about two polygamist women in early Utah history fighting for the right to vote.
“My goal as a theatre maker is to present people on stage who are normally not represented. As a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, it was important for me to have these two strong female characters and to delve a little more into the history of polygamy in the Church,” Trejo said. “Polygamy is something that we often don’t talk about, and I felt like it was something that was really important to explore.”
Trejo said the radio play was a totally different experience for her than anything she had done with theatre before. Beyond the inevitable technological difficulties, there was the struggle of trying to present a play with only voices and sounds.
“Suffrage” was performed by BYU students back in January as part of BYU’s Contemporary Voices festival, but it was performed as a reading with minimal costumes and lighting and no blocking or set design. Trejo helped with that version of the show, and she decided she wanted to use it for her TMA 536 project. She was originally excited to be able to develop the show more fully and wasn’t expecting that she would have even less to work with than she did the first time. Creating the world of the play in the minds of audiences proved to be difficult using only voices and sound.
“We had to determine how the characters could show emotion without visually acting. There was a lot of trial and error to figure out how to depict facial expressions with sound alone. How do you hear an eye roll? I think that was the biggest part of the process of making it become a radio play,” Trejo said.
Trejo said the experience taught her that art can come in many different forms. She said people tend to think of theatre only as plays on a stage, but when she was forced to look beyond that view she discovered a whole new form of storytelling.
“The biggest takeaway for me was that theater can be different, and it can create really different experiences. Theatre can still make an impact even when it’s performed in non-traditional ways,” Trejo said.