'The Human Faustus Project' debuts at University Theatre, written by Ball State students

Topics: College of Fine Arts, Immersive Learning

October 11, 2007

Human Faustus Project
From left, Kelsey McClarnon, Ross Compton and Kate Lumpkin appear in "The Human Faustus Project."
A Ball State student-written play, "The Human Faustus Project," debuts for the first time as a full production at 7:30 p.m. Nov. 8-10 and 14-17 and at 2:30 p.m. Nov. 11 at University Theatre.

Based on the play "The Tragical Historie of Doctor Faustus" by Christopher Marlowe, "The Human Faustus Project" explores the ethical gray areas of genetic selection and manipulation. Following the dilemmas and decisions of the students' character Dr. John Faust, the play pushes the issue of biological advancement in today's society and begs the question, "How far are you willing to go?"

"This stuff is really in the forefront of public imagination," said Jennifer Blackmer, co-playwright, director and assistant professor of theater. "Dr. Faust is in every one of us. We ask ourselves a lot of questions. If your child was suffering from a disease, how far would you go? We came to the conclusion that many people would go as far as they could."

The play was an immersive learning project envisioned by Blackmer, who was a faculty fellow at the Virginia B. Ball Center for Creative Inquiry during the spring 2006 semester. Throughout the term, she and 15 selected students from various majors researched, wrote, rewrote and performed the play during staged readings at the Muncie Civic Theatre, the Indiana Repertory Theatre and finally at the national conference for the Council on Undergraduate Research in Washington, D.C.

"The majority of people who experienced the writing process for this project will actually be in the audience, and that has never been true of any other show I've been involved with," said senior Ross Compton, who plays the devil's advocate, Mephistopheles. "It is both exciting and nerve-racking because this is a brand new play and we are the first actors to perform a full production of the script, and we wish to preserve the vision the original writers had."

While most have graduated, two of the original authors, Kate Lumpkin and Joel Miller, are performing in the play's debut as a full production.

"This experience is a rare one, and I know that," Lumpkin said. "Very few actors ever get to participate in the creation of a script and then see it fully realized on stage. It's likely a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and I'm taking full advantage of every moment with this show."

Lumpkin plays Dr. Dianne Wagner, the longtime associate of Dr. Faust.

"This show deals with a very real and unfortunately quiet debate that is happening right now in today's world," Lumpkin said. "We are reaching a point when the questions we pose in this show are going to be asked in our world. The line between right and wrong becomes blurry. This is the best time to confront these issues, and I think our play does a really good job of providing the foundation for audience members to begin thinking about these matters."

Tickets cost $12.50 for the general public, $11.50 for Ball State faculty and staff, $9.50 for senior citizens, and $6.50 for students. Tickets are available at the University Theatre box office. Call 765-285-8749 for more information. This production is intended for mature audiences only.

"People should come and see this because it will challenge their preconceived notions," Blackmer said. "It's about pushing the limits. It's a great story that raises a lot of issues, and the fact that this play was created by students gives it much more meaning."

For more information about "The Human Faustus Project," contact Blackmer at 765-285-8747 or jsblackmer@bsu.edu.

Other upcoming Mainstage productions include the "Indiana Choreographers Dance Concert" at 7:30 p.m. Dec. 6-8 and 2:30 p.m. Dec. 9 at University Theatre. Tickets cost $12.50 for the general public, $11.50 for Ball State faculty and staff, $9.50 for senior citizens and $6.50 for students.

By Jennifer Strempka

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