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The Student News Site of Buckingham Browne & Nichols School

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Student trio takes control of spring play

‘Collected Stories’ explores ownership of experiences
Ruth%2C+played+by+Eva%2C+converses+with+her+pupil%2C+Lisa%2C+played+by+Miley.
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Ruth, played by Eva, converses with her pupil, Lisa, played by Miley.

“Maybe you thought I’d be dead by now!” Ruth Steiner, an author dying of cancer, played by Eva Helie ’24, screamed at her mentee, Lisa Morrison, played by Miley Chen ’25. The tense scene, during which Ruth confronts Lisa about stealing the story of Ruth’s affair for Lisa’s debut novel, served as the climax of the spring play “Collected Stories” by Donald Margulies, performed on May 18, May 19, and May 20.

Ownership of stories was the central theme the play explored, Director Nikki Minsky ’24 said.

“‘Collected Stories’ is about ownership of stories and the ownership of experiences,” says Nikki. “Expression as well. Who has the right to share things?” Set in Greenwich Village, New York in the 1990s—where struggling artists would flock because of the cheap cost of living— the story follows Lisa, a graduate student at Columbia University and Ruth, her professor. The show was comprised of a series of conversations the two women had over five years of Lisa’s writing career: from the publication of her first story to the publication of her first novel. Nikki opted to leave the play open to audience interpretation, she said.

“One big thing that we were exploring was, ‘Who was right in the end?’ and I think the real answer, in the end, is that neither of them are,” she said.

This two-person play was selected by Nikki with the help of Upper School (US) Theater Director, Ross MacDonald. In line with the theme of ownership of stories, Nikki took ownership of the play’s narrative, becoming the first student ever to direct the spring play.

A dedicated participant in the US Theater Department since her freshman year, Nikki said, she was ready to challenge herself with a new role.

“I hope I’m giving helpful notes,” Nikki said. “It’s an interesting perspective, trying to both create a picture that looks nice and have the actors get the most out of it.”

Nikki designed the set to be Ruth’s living room, with a writing desk, a couch, and a chair where the two converse.

Eva said there was an added focus on the dialogue because of the minimal set.

“It’s a very different style of working through a scene,” she said. “Most of the notes we get are on the intonation of the lines. When the focus is entirely on the lines, it becomes a more heightened part of the play.”

Miley hopes she and Eva gave the audience insight into the minds of two complex characters, she said.

“‘Collected Stories’ is very much so a character study,” she said. “It’s about the people in it. They have their faults and are definitely jerks sometimes. I’m hoping that people who see the show will see that. It’s okay to be imperfect. It’s okay to not know what to do.”

“The play teaches us that communication is key, she said. “Coming out of COVID, a lot of communication was dropped, and I think that in the show we see a little about how a lack of communication can hurt people.”

The show’s overarching theme of ownership of stories is highly pertinent in the age of social media, Miley said. “We have social media,” she said.

“As soon as you put your story out there for the world to see, it will be there forever, and people will take your story and tell your story even if you don’t want them to. I think the theme of who can own your story is incredibly relevant now.”

Eva and Miley are the US Drama Club President and Vice President, respectively, and believe in students’ right to own their own stories at the school, especially in the theater department, Miley said.

“What we’re looking to do with the show is to prove that the underclassmen can do incredible things at BB&N and we can be trusted with leadership positions that normally only seniors or faculty would be trusted with,” Miley said. “We can direct a show and we can do it well. Even though we are a small cast, we can still do incredible things.”

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