Devised theatre is a Hope College tradition that takes place every few years. This is where an invited guest artist comes in to work with students on creating an original work. Hope Theatre’s last production of the year, “The Boy Who Hates Everything”, opens this week and it is exactly that. The script has been a work in progress from day one of rehearsals, with a guest director, Chris Garcia Peak. Additionally, this production features songs written by a guest composer, Nathan Striefel, a magical and extensive set, bright 1960s French costumes, and puppets. The cast includes Adam Chamness (‘23), Danai Mandebvu (‘25), Abigail Doonan (‘24), Alegría Guzmán (‘25), Sofia Wake (‘26), Claudia Hwang (‘26), Eden Comer (‘25), Kate Lawrence (‘26), and Eliana Cocking (‘26).
Being such a technical heavy production, a lot of work had to go into the set and costumes in order for the show to feel as magical and otherworldly as it does. Chamness and Guzman are two actors who also work behind the scenes to build the world physically as well as performatively.
Guzmán on acting and working in the costume shop
Guzmán plays Elisa, a librarian, and voices Choupette. On working with puppets, she said, “I do the voice and am one of the puppeteers for Choupette, which is the lion puppet. She requires three people puppeteering her, which is a lot. We got her right after spring break, so it’s been about three weeks [of working with her]. It was tricky to get to know how it works but we had Jesse [Mooney-Bullock] there, who designed and built the puppets so it was really nice to learn from him.”
Guzmán also works in the costume shop. When asked why she chose to work in the costume shop, she said, “When I was little I wanted to be a fashion designer […] [working in the shop does] feel like me healing my inner child, like let’s make those two passions meet. It’s been really fun, I’ve learned a lot of skills. It’s like active learning all the time.”
It has also been an interesting process for Guzmán this time around to create costumes for a show that she is in. She has been able to work on pieces of her own costume and watch as her castmates’ costumes develop. “It was fun to see how as the devised piece was developing, the costumes were as well.” Guzmán thinks she will continue working in the costume shop throughout her remaining two years at Hope, and now costuming has become one of her options for jobs after college, since it could be a more stable job within theatre.
As a psychology major and international student from Ecuador, Guzmán plans to take her training in both theatre and psychology home with her after college as potentially an intimacy trainer or even use theatre as a healing resource for future patients. She also wants to work to prepare people for the theatre world. “It depends on where life takes me. My big plan is to go back home and maybe open my own company there– an educational company kind of like theatre people who want to go into theatre but for them to be prepared because I didn’t feel as prepared compared to people who were from [the US] […] Or help them prepare for admissions auditions or scholarships, something like that, provide that resource.”
Chamness on acting and working in the scene shop
Chamness plays The Boy himself, Desmond: a twenty-two-year-old “boy” who embarks upon this silly, meaningful and magical journey after getting separated from his family. Chamness is a theatre major and has been very involved in the Hope Theatre Department, working in the scene shop and acting on stage. He was last seen as Leontes in “The Winter’s Tale” last semester, and voiced Thomas in “Pomegranates Underneath” this semester.
With “The Boy Who Hates Everything” being his final Hope production, Chamness said, “It’s sad, I’ve done a lot with this department. It’s no fun to think this is one of the last times I’ll be doing anything on this stage as a student. I don’t think I’m done with this theatre itself, but with the program certainly. But I’m happy that for my last show, I’m doing something new. I’ve never done a devised piece before and I’m working with a lot of people who I haven’t worked closely with before, or ever. And also I’m working with some very familiar faces who I’ve worked with before, so it’s an even mix.”
The process of being an actor in a devised play, is not something that Chamness has done before, other than of course the make-pretend devising done as a child. Chamness admits, “I’ve kind of forgotten what collaborative storytelling really was. I’m part of the improv group [Vanderprov] but that’s as spontaneous as you can get. This is sort of middle ground. It’s not entirely spontaneous but it’s not, ‘here’s your script, learn your lines, perform a show’. It’s been a unique experience, I’ve enjoyed it. I think it’s something I might want to involve myself with more in the future, see if it’s really for me. I’ve enjoyed it enough, certainly to dip my toes in it again, see if devised work really is for me.”
On top of playing the lead role in the production, Chamness has also been working on its set. When it comes to working on a devised piece set over a typical play set, Chamness said that in the scene shop it’s been a little stressful. The spontaneity of a play that’s always changing and has a reduced time frame has made it difficult, the team will just barely get the set finished by opening night.
Chamness’s plan after he graduates this year is to spend a year in Holland working to save up some money and in his spare time, job hunt, look for housing arrangements and chart a course for his future. “Tentatively I’m looking at moving to Milwaukee. I really want to pursue voice acting and, although Milwaukee isn’t necessarily the hub of that, it’s a good spot to start. I’m not sure if it’ll pan out but that’s what next year’s focus is to figure out; where I’m going, what I’m doing.”
Chamness’s message for readers about “The Boy Who Hates Everything” is that the “show has a bit of everything […] we’ve made something that says a lot. There’s more central messages of rediscovering motivation to enjoy things, ‘it’s the small things’, family, healing family dysfunction. There’s a lot of talk of grief… the flawed nature familiar/familial structures sometimes and how it can be approached. It’s got a bit of everything for everyone, so I’d say come see it. I’m sure you’ll find something in it that’s real.”
Guzmán added onto this saying, “You should really come! It’s been such a process that we’ve all enjoyed and I hope everyone gets to enjoy it too. It’s like a fun, kind of silly play, but at the same time it has a lot of nuances that make it more serious. But all of it is treated in a very real but lighthearted way, which I appreciate a lot. And it’s really fun to play with. There’s a lot of surprises within the play. Everyone should come see it and experience it, it’s pretty different from what we’ve done at Hope.”
Showings of “The Boy Who Hates Everything” are April 14, 15, and 22 at 7:30 and April 15, 22, and 23 at 1 on the DeWitt Mainstage. Witness for yourself, this silly, creative and certainly surreal good time!