12 Stones theater group looks to future, ASWC club status

Ami Tian

12 Stones is known for being unusual and they like it that way. At a recent meeting, co-founders and seniors Ian Jagel and Peter Richards described the group’s upcoming events for the semester: “Blank by Blanks,” a series of short student-written plays and two new installments of “Christina and the Clockwork Boy,” a serial show set in a futuristic world. According to Richards, the third episode “opens in darkness to the sound of whales screaming.”

The group has recently applied for ASWC club status, which they hope to use to continue their tradition of nontraditional theater.

“I just hope that people continue to surprise the Whitman community,” said Richards. “I think a lot of people have a lot of ideas that are really crucial to making that happen, and I really hope that those people continue to come together in the form of 12 Stones later.”

12 Stones’ most recent show, episode two of “Christina and the Clockwork Boy,” was performed in the style of promenade theater, taking the audience to a variety of locations around campus including Kimball Auditorium, Maxey Auditorium, the amphitheater and Narnia.

“Part of the mission statement is to activate the audience and to activate the campus, and what that means is we try and produce nontraditional theater stagings in nontraditional locations,” said Jagel. “We try and make the theatrical experience very interesting for the audience member, but we also try and do it in numerous places around campus to make the students and faculty and Whitman community in general experience this campus and this school in a new way.”

ASWC club status would also provide the group with the necessary funding to produce student-generated shows without having to sacrifice quality.

“We’ve already shown that there’s a strong base of support and interest and also a large audience who are interested in coming to see our shows,” said Jagel.   “And we have been trying to produce shows of high production quality, but we’ve been paying for it all with our own money.”

Jagel and Richards hope that the group would, as an ASWC club, have an internal structure that would resemble that of a professional theater company, which in turn would provide opportunities for students who might not have an interest in acting, technical production or design.

“There are positions [in a professional theater company] that are not necessarily theatrical,” said Jagel. “There’s a place for business, there’s a place for art direction, there’s a place for publicity, there’s a place for management . . . There are all different kinds of positions that are not necessarily taught in the theater department, that might be taught in another department or that might be interesting to another type of person who’s not a theater person. And that’s what we hope to do: make it as interdepartmental as possible.”

12 Stones has already attracted a diverse range of participants from a range of disciplines and with varying levels of past theatrical involvement, including senior philosophy major Allison Gill, who is directing one of the “Blank by Blanks.”

“This is the first thing I’ve done with [12 Stones],” said Gill. “It’s just one of those things that’s always been something I wanted to do more of but wasn’t sure how to fit into my schedule. That’s why it’s neat that there’s more student-run theater, because it’s a lower time commitment.”

Gill also appreciates the directorial liberty that 12 Stones allows her.

“There are some structured opportunities for student theater on campus, but I think it’s really neat to have something that’s more free form,” said Gill. “I don’t think that there’s a whole lot of oversight except for support. I know who’s running it and I can ask questions, but I think we’re pretty much on our own.”

Despite (or perhaps because of) the group’s laid-back attitude and the unconventional content of their shows, 12 Stones has so far enjoyed the support of the theater department and a large and dedicated audience.

“For each ‘Christina [and the Clockwork Boy]’ episode all the theater staff has come and supported us . . . that felt good,” said Richards.

“There’s an incredible amount of talent and interest here and an incredible amount of support from the community. We’ve had hundreds of people come to see our shows in very, very small places and we’re asking them to sit in not the most comfortable arrangements and they are trusting us and going along for the ride,” said Jagel. “There’s been so much support: it’s been really nice.”