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My Days with Doris

DORIS2This week, like many weeks before it, sees the opening of yet another work of theatre by Professor Wesley Savick (pictured left conducting rehearsal) of the Suffolk University Theatre Department. However, this is no ordinary “Wes” play, not that any of them really are.

This play, cryptically titled Doris Day in Belarus is both similar to and wildly different from many past Savick plays that have premiered on campus. Last year’s The Saint Plays for instance; a compilation of poetically complex fables on Christian religious icons. Or FAB!/or whatever… two years ago; a bold narrative on pop culture, fame and outside influence.

All of Savick’s work reflects a deep connection with the subtler aspects of life. Working under him, you see both an endlessly compassionate mentor and a mad scientist of the stage. Stringing together technical marvels with live performances his plays become something more than a play. They are full body experiences, filling you up with stories packed full with pathos, tenacity and wisdom.

Doris Day in Belarus is all of these things and much more.

Last year, when Suffolk University announced the selling of the Donahue/Archer complex, the entire community was sent into disarray. That is until they also announced the construction of the newly unveiled Somerset Building. Then it was only the students and faculty of the Suffolk University Theatre Department that were left stranded.

Why? There are several possible reasons.

One; Suffolk just couldn’t remain within the residential lease costs of Beacon Hill, thus forcing them to relocate to the less residential side of the State House in front of Sawyer.

Two; An unofficial claim has spread within the walls of Suffolk University that the college was looking to move the Theatre Department into the Somerset Building but that would have meant that the building was going to be two floors higher than it is. This allegedly caused the Beacon Hill community to restrict the addition of height as the structure would then block a steady flow of sunlight onto the Beacon Hill Community Garden.

Three; The school was looking for a facelift in Somerset that would benefit each housed department greatly, neglecting the Theatre Department in the process.

Whatever reason rings true, we may never know. And it was that uncertainty that lead to the conception of Doris Day.

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The cast, along with director Alexa Costa and playwright Paige Monopoli, of STRONG: The Boston Marathon Project which premiered in the studio this past spring.

So this past year, around the time that Savick usually pens his latest Fall mainstage, all of the events surrounding the selling of these two buildings sparked the idea for a tribute show to the cherished Black Box Studio space that Suffolk theatre students have called home since the space was then renovated from being the old Law School Library back in the late 1990s.

Now, with the show opening tomorrow in the Black Box itself, the cast and crew, myself included, are getting ready to tackle one of the SUTD’s most ambitious shows to date. Stringing together student scenes where the audience acts almost as a grouping of flies on the wall of the Studio observing the daily life of these very students, and adapted scenes from playwright Anton Chekhov’s most famous works; The Seagull, The Cherry Orchard, The Three Sisters and Uncle Vanya, the show effectively portrays the life of a performing arts student at Suffolk University.

Being a student in the department since the beginning of my freshman year, I can say that the Studio space is the place where I, along with many of my peers, feel the most comfortable on campus. So yes, when we were given the news that it would be sold in the coming months, it was indeed shocking, nerve-wracking and deeply sad.

Yes, the news of the department moving to the top few floors of the Sawyer building beginning next academic year, lifted the uncertain weight off of our collective shoulders, but that would do nothing for the years of memories that this performing space housed.

When the building is torn down will people remember it was there? Would they remember the art that years of students and faculty created together? Would students remember that acting class they took that taught them so much, not only about acting, but about living? Would I even come to remember what it looked like?

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Sophomores Matt Bittner and Jack Aschenbach in The Convicted Prophet which premiered in the Studio this past October.

But of course they will. A space such as this gives an impact that you don’t just forget. Students walk into the Studio Theatre as timid freshman filled with excitement and curiosity. And just four quick years later, they leave hardened artists with wisdom beyond their years. Students have commanded lead roles in this space, they have fallen in love, killed their common equal, crafted beautiful sets, costumes, lights, sounds, feelings and most importantly; they lived.

Through Savick’s writing/directing and the cast/crew’s dedication, Doris Day in Belarus tells the story this seemingly plain rehearsing space deserves. So come see it. Whether you’re a student who acted or directed in the space, or just someone who wants to learn a little history and experience a little life. Doris Day in Belarus is one of those rare works of art that tells a story so vividly true with such artistic ability.


Doris Day in Belarus opens tomorrow, Thursday Nov. 19 at 8 pm, and runs through Sunday Nov. 22 at 3 pm in the Studio Black Box Theatre located on the fourth floor of the Archer building. Visit suffolk.edu/theatre for more information. 

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