The Ukulele brings student playwright’s work to life

A student-written script sounds more like a theatre project than the basis for a black box production, but for senior Liz Carlson, The Ukulele doubled for both. Both endearing and charmingly awkward, The Ukulele sold out all five shows.

Producing the show was unique in that the cast and directors had direct access to the playwright.

“[Liz] was very supportive throughout the whole thing,” said senior Robbie Culbertson, who played Nick Santini. “Because she was there, there was a lot of room for adaptation and interpretation.”

While writing a script was not new to Carlson, seeing that script come to life onstage was a first.

“It was really terrifying, because at that point your writing isn’t standing alone anymore,” Carlson said.

Carlson was most worried about how the comedy would translate when performed.

“I think the problem with really big comedic pieces is that it’s all about timing and it’s all about delivery,”

Carlson said. “When I read it, I read it in the voice and the timing and inflection that I want it to be read in, but when other people just straight up read it, they are just reading words.”

Expressing the comedy was also difficult because the audience was so close to the actors.

“With the audience so close it can be misleading for the actors, because the audience is directly in front of us, and we hear every laugh and every moment of silence,” junior Madeline Walker, who played love interest Penelope, said.

Unlike a traditional black box production, The Ukulele featured a full set, leaving little space for audience seating. The surprisingly intimate setting allowed the actors to make more nuanced movements and create a deeper understanding of the characters for the audience.

“We can do things that the audience will notice, things that might reveal something about our character,” Walker said.

Despite the challenges, Carlson was pleased with how the cast brought her script to life.

“Obviously nothing is ever going to be perfect or … the way I always want it, but I don’t think there was anything completely led astray,” Carlson said.