Students' work is center stage

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AIKEN --- Quintin Williams had one goal while attending the University of South Carolina Aiken -- have an original script performed by his peers.

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Shane Barber rehearses for Experimental Relief, an annual theater production at USC Aiken.   MICHAEL HOLAHAN/staff
MICHAEL HOLAHAN/staff
Shane Barber rehearses for Experimental Relief, an annual theater production at USC Aiken.

This weekend he'll see his 10-minute play Have We Forgotten? brought to life by classmates during USC Aiken's annual Experimental Relief.

Experimental Relief offers USC Aiken students a chance to produce their own works from writing to stage. Productions have been recommended to the Kennedy Center's American College Theatre Festival Region IV for the past 19 out of 23 years that the college has participated in the event.

The performances Friday and Saturday night and Sunday afternoon will include three plays and two movement pieces, including Williams' original piece.

The intimate performance touches on Black History Month and Martin Luther King Jr.'s assassination and major disasters Williams and peers have seen during their life, including the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina and the shootings at Columbine High School in Colorado.

"I feel like my career's beginning," said Williams.

The idea for the piece came from the title alone and grew into a larger project as Williams began to realize how many major U.S. events don't even register in our daily schedules.

"Even my generation doesn't think about slavery and the civil rights movement in the same way our parents think about it," he said.

Alumna Brandi Perry, who returned to direct Williams and the cast in their 10-minute production, said the piece means to make the audience shift in their seats and poke holes in the proverbial fourth wall.

"I really learned how less is more with this play," she said. "If you look at the script by itself, it's three huge monologues and not a lot of information on stage direction or blocking. I'm finding creative ways to flesh it out."

All players remain in black dress throughout the event, except for pops of dramatic yellows, pinks and greens during each scene. The play also uses mixed media to flash images and video from the events they're portraying.

"It just makes the play extremely powerful," said Perry.

The night not only spotlights student efforts, but also aims to raise awareness of Aiken County's Cumbee Center to Assist Abused Persons. In the last year the center has lost more than 40 percent of its funding from county and state budget cuts.

Experimental relief

WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday, 2 p.m. Sunday

WHERE: University of South Carolina Aiken Etherredge Center, O'Connell Theatre, 471 University Parkway

ADMISSION: A donation for the Cumbee Center to Assist Abused Persons (hair dryers, curling irons, pillows, twin bedding, pillowcases, school supplies, backpacks, baby wipes, diapers, laundry detergent, towels/washcloths, paper towels, toilet paper, cleaning supplies, nonperishable food items, large garbage bags)

LEARN MORE: (803) 641-3305, www.usca.edu, www.cumbeecenter.org


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