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2012 Fall Issue 7 (November 2, 2012)

“Split Seconds” Resonates, Due to Upcoming Election

November 4, 2012
By Will Gray

Amidst anticipation of the proposed Minnesota Marriage Amendment and the looming presidential election, the Carleton Players performed “Split Seconds,” a timely play about the passage of Proposition 8 in California and the 2008 Presidential Elections.

The play, performed last weekend in the theatre pf the Weitz Center for Creativity, was directed by Ruth Weiner, Class of 1944 Professor of Theater and the Liberal Arts. It was written by Michael Elyanow, a screenwriter, playwright, and visiting professor in Carleton’s Cinema and Media Studies department, where he is teaching a class on screenwriting for television.

“Split Seconds” is set at Stanford University in California during the days before the election of Barack Obama and the passage of Proposition 8, a ballot measure that decreed that “only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California.”

The play centers around six undergraduate students who struggle with their relationships with one another and their choices for the future as the political struggle for marriage rights and for the Presidency unfold.

The cast included Grace Black ‘16, Josh Davids ‘15, Andrew Weiss ‘15, Beritt Wilber ‘15, Andrew Harvey ‘14, Lauren Alexander ‘13, and Peter Bumcrot ‘13.

Black, for whom “Split Seconds” was a debut performance at Carleton, said she was exhilarated to have begun her undergraduate acting career with the Players show. “Everyone was so nice,” Black said. “I never felt like a newcomer; I always felt so welcomed.”
Black also commented on the utility of the ability to work directly with the playwright: “If something felt wrong we’d bring it up, and sometimes it would get changed and sometimes it wouldn’t.”

Mr. Elyanow, who served as associate chair of Northwestern University’s Creative Writing for the Media program, has written several television screenplays and has collaborated in writing several movies, including Primal Fear. He began writing the script for “Split Seconds” in July and continued to edit and revise it as rehearsals proceeded.

“The writing process was completely insane—it was six weeks to write a full-length play. But it’s been a fun experience,” Elyanow said. “The thing that impressed me most was the dedication of the students. It was exciting for me to watch what they did and say ‘I like what they’re doing with that; I can try to help them make that moment even better.’”

Ruth Weiner, director of “Split Seconds”, agreed that the production process had been challenging. “Oh my God it was stressful. One whole scene, the pivotal scene, we changed as we were beginning tech,” said Weiner.  However, she seconded Ms. Black’s comments about the advantages of working intimately with Mr. Elyanow.

“It made the process more dimensional for me and very interesting,” she said. “[The actors and I] thought a lot about where the play was going and if the language was in our way at any point we could work that out with Michael.”

Members of the Carleton community steadily attended the play from its opening night last Thursday to its final performance on Sunday. “Lauren Alexander blew me out of the water, “ said Sarah Price, a senior English major and longtime Carleton actress and theater-goer. “The cast as a whole had great chemistry and gave a terrific performance.”

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