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Guts: FLC Actors and Actresses Expose More than Just Skin

Guts: FLC Actors and Actresses Expose More than Just Skin

Story by Livia Hooson, Photo by Joshua Plutt

Wednesday, February 26, 2014 | Number of views (4499)

The recent and much buzzed about theatre production on campus titled, “A New Devised Work in Collaboration with Tim Miller,” involved personal narratives, self-introspection and nudity.

With the support of a world-renowned performance and provocateur, Tim Miller, and Katherine Moller, a Fort Lewis College professor, the FLC theater department put this piece known as “Guts” together.

Miller came to the students with a prompt that provoked students and Moller to think about what constitutes differences between humans, and two weeks later, Guts was created, Shan Wells, Media Coordinator of the Theatre Department said.

With only two weeks to prepare and heavily based on improvisation, the students developed a 55 minute performance that revealed more than just their interpersonal stories and struggles, said Austin Minard, a freshmen at FLC studying theatre.

“Guts” was a devised work, meaning a creation from scratch. Devised pieces are typically very personal and put together in a short amount of time, Elkins said.

Minard performed in “Guts” and described the experience as life changing.

Minard’s piece focused on societies expectations of people and societal constraints that limit people’s potential. He wanted to break down those barriers and take a stand for himself and others.

“We look at ourselves in the mirror, and we sometimes can’t stand how we look. We think we are disgusting, but we are not. We are human. We are not Sims, so why not accept who we are?” Minard said.

“How can I get this point across? Towards the end of my piece, I saw this vision and a few others taking off our clothes saying, ‘This is me!’ You can’t go any deeper. It doesn’t go deeper than the skin,” Minard said.

At the end of his piece, Minard unrobed and stated the following, “I am Austin Lee Minard, and this is who I am.”

Seven other actors and actresses unrobed behind him as well and stated their names while boldly looking into the audience, Minard said.

“The most important part of Austin’s piece was not in the disrobing but the robing because what they did was bare their souls physically, in a way, but also claimed their identity,” said Dennis Elkins, chair of the theatre department. “As they started putting their clothes back on, they claimed their name again, which was the most powerful part.”

The sold out Roshong Recital Hall consisted of mostly students, which is rare for FLC productions, and there was an overwhelming turnout that led to about 60 people sitting on the floor of the theatre, Minard said.

A friend of Minard’s saw the performance and sent him a text later on sharing her time at the show.

The text said,  “I’m like you. I’m not like you. ‘Guts’ was the most amazing emotional experience I’ve ever been a part of since my time in rehab. That was unbelievable.  I wish everyone in the audience had been in a place to accept it, but either way, I am honored to have been a part of tonight’s journey.  For one hour we were all just walking each other home.”

There was no backlash or criticism for the nudity and content of the piece that Minard, Elkins, or Wells knew of.

People were hugging each other and the actors and actresses. They were laughing, crying and emoting an intense response to the performance, including gratitude and self-reflection, Minard said.

The overwhelming positive responses for the performance both shocked and excited the actors and actresses. When stripping down to the nude and exposing internal struggles like child abuse, bullying and self-doubt the risk is high, said Minard.

Elkins and the theatre department faculty focus on the integrity of the students, the safety and healthy respect of them, as well as the stories they are telling.

The hardest challenge about being in a theatre department in an academic setting is continuously pushing the expectations of the community and broadening their experiences all without offending anyone, Elkins said.

“Sun and Room” was another recent FLC theatre production that involved actors and actresses stripping down to their underwear, Elkins said.

If the story is better told with nudity and or profanity than those elements may exist in the performance, but if the message of the story is being compromised, then they simply will not include that, Elkins said.

Miller thought the FLC students were incredibly brave and daring to strip down and share their personal endeavors, Wells said.

“If we can encourage our students to be bold and make bold mistakes, they can change the world,” Elkins said.

The FLC theatre department always forewarns their potential audience about any content that may be objectionable, such as profanity and nudity, but ultimately it is at the discretion of the individual to watch the performance, Wells said.

“This performance was not sexualized, although it was about sex in a lot of ways, but it was not pornographic or risqué. It was about taking risks.  It is artistic expression,” Wells said.

Many people came with the intrigue of seeing their peers’ strip down to nothing, but they left with a different perspective and an appreciation for the content of the piece, Minard said.

“When you infantilize the body by making nudity about sex only, you destroy and muddy what it means to be intellectually awake,” Wells said.

Wells personally would give “Guts” an R rating, for nudity and some profanity and because the content was meant for adults and created by adults.

“There is an ethical aspect to rating plays because you do not want to offend anyone. Theatre is meant to educate, and reveal a beautiful form of expression.” “Guts” particularly is not meant to be risqué or salacious, Wells said.

“This is what adults do. We explore. This is what artists do. We explore. And, there are no boundaries to this, but when boundaries are put up, you make bad art,” said Wells.

By performing an organic and honest piece of work, Minard said that a door has been opened for FLC students and their interest in theatre on campus. He hopes that more devised pieces will happen in the future.

“Guts” will be performing its last show March 9 at 7:30 p.m.  and 9:30 p.m. in the Gallery, which is located in the Theatre building, it will be $5.00 for all patrons, Minard said.

For a glimpse into the performance, here is the trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w1eiiiM9zcQ


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