Students develop original musical in two months

Tabor College senior Cheyenne Derksen offers advice to her ?tribe? during a rehearsal Sunday afternoon for the staged reading of their original musical based on the popular comic strip Calvin and Hobbes at 7:30 p.m. Friday in the Theatre Lab in the basement of the Lohrenz Building on campus. Free Press photos by Don Ratzlaff

Tabor College has produced any number of classic plays and musicals over the years, but the theatrically curious can enjoy something brand new on stage this Friday.

Literally, so.

Since Thanksgiving, A relatively small team of Tabor students has conceived, written and staged a musical based on the beloved comic strip Calvin and Hobbes.

The team will present a free staged reading of the production Friday in the Theatre Lab located in the basement of the Lohrenz Administration Building.

A staged reading is a form of theater without sets or full costumes. The actors, who read from scripts, may be seated, stand in fixed positions or incorporate minimal stage movement.

The driving force behind the project is Cheyenne Derksen, a senior from Wichita who is majoring in English and religious studies.

Tabor College senior Cheyenne Derksen offers advice to her ?tribe? during a rehearsal Sunday afternoon for the staged reading of their original musical based on the popular comic strip Calvin and Hobbes at 7:30 p.m. Friday in the Theatre Lab in the basement of the Lohrenz Building on campus. Free Press photos by Don Ratzlaff

Derksen initiated the project because of her personal interest in the process, not as a class project.

?We didn?t do a musical this year (as a college), so I saw a need,? she said.

Derksen had been exposed to the start-from-scratch approach during a project she was a part of last spring under theater instructor Laurel Koerner.

?Last spring we did a 24-hour new-works festival, where we wrote and performed a show or a scene?however long we wanted it to be?in 24 hours, from conception to performance,? Derksen said.

?It was very fun?too many energy drinks, but it was fun.?

As for the current project, ?I did it just for fun, but I didn?t want to do it by myself,? she said. ?I assumed other people had the same view I did, so I wanted to get that tribe together and unify them for a common purpose.?

Calvin and Hobbes is a daily comic strip by American cartoonist Bill Watterson that was syndicated from Nov. 18, 1985, to Dec. 31, 1995. It follows the humorous antics of Calvin, a precocious, mischievous and adventurous 6-year-old boy, and Hobbes, his sardonic stuffed tiger. The pair is named after John Calvin, a 16th-century French Reformation theologian, and Thomas Hobbes, a 17th-century English political philosopher. At the height of its popularity, Calvin and Hobbes was featured in more than 2,400 newspapers worldwide. ?Wikipedia

Derksen gathered five core people to join her for ?a huge brainstorming session? just before Thanks?giving.

?We decided on Calvin and Hobbes because it?s friendly and it?s funny, but there?s enough philosophy through it to carry an older audience in addition to kids and whatnot,? she said.

Derksen added that prior to the brainstorming session, she had never read the popular comic strip created by Ameri?can cartoonist Bill Watter?son about a boy and his beloved stuffed-tiger toy.

?It was their idea, I just wanted to facilitate it,? Derksen said of the theme. ?The girl who wrote the music loved Calvin and Hobbes and had all these books. She brought them and we looked through them, and found a story line through our favorite comics.?

Derksen said the lines in the resulting script come 100 percent from the comic.

?That?s why we?re not charging for the staged reading,? she said, acknowledging the copyright laws protecting Watterson?s material.

?It does have an ebb and flow like a story,? she said of the script. ?But it does kind of carry the feel of a comic book, where you have these little punch lines through the whole story.?

Derksen said the story follows the relationship between Calvin and his father.

?They both lose something, and then they help each other come back,? she said. ?We thought we?d use that as our overarching narrative to carry these little (comic) bits with it.?

Derksen, who saw her role first as producer of the project and now as director, said her biggest surprise is how many fellow students have been interested in being a part of it.

Her original team of five students has grown to 12.

?Everybody got interested right away,? Derksen said. ?There?s so many different aspects to creating a new work, that they don?t all have to be theater people.?

Tasks have included script development, writing lyrics and music, instrumentalists, vocalists, stage design, lighting and other aspects of a production.

?It has become much more than I thought it would be,? Derksen said. ?I just really wanted to write a script, but they wanted to continue with it. I was very happy they wanted to do that as well.?

What does Derksen hope people who see the staged reading walk away with?

?I want them to get the message of the show, but also see what students are capable of.?

Because of copyright limitations, Derksen has other expectations for the future of her team?s work.

?My hope is that the process is replicated more than the script itself,? she said. ?I hope we?ll be able to continue writing new works and that they would be original works versus these baby steps that we?ve been taking.?

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