‘It’s a team sport’

Grace Haselhorst discusses drama, collaboration and 'The Realness'

Thyrsus co-president Grace Haselhorst (at right) congratulates cast and crew following the 24-hour playwriting competition “Day of Shame” Sept. 9. The experimental theater group will present Haselhorst’s full-length play “The Realness” Nov. 9-11. (Photo: Liam Otten/Washington University)

In the age of social media and reality TV, what does it mean to be “authentic”?

So asks senior Grace Haselhorst in “The Realness.” Thyrsus, Washington University’s student-run experimental theater group, will debut the play Nov. 9-11.

Here, Haselhorst who wrote and directs the show, discusses playwriting, “The Realness” and the rewards of seeing your work on stage.

Thyrsus is known for its annual “Day of Shame” playwriting competition. You serve as co-president for the group, along with senior Catey Midla. What’s your background in drama?

Almost everything I know about theater, I learned through my involvement with Thyrsus. In high school, I had the opportunity to take some drama classes, including a playwriting class, but I wasn’t directly involved in the production process and had a pretty limited understanding of what theater could be.

But at WashU, I’ve been involved with a Thyrsus show every semester since I arrived. These experiences have informed so many of the creative decisions I’ve made as a director.

What do you find most rewarding about theater? What’s most difficult?

Theater is a collaborative art form, and that’s what I love about it. Many of my writing professors have told me that placing restrictions on yourself can serve as a catalyst for creativity. In student theater, we’re working with limited time, limited resources and sometimes, frankly, limited knowledge. I love working through these challenges and finding solutions that make the play better.

The cast of “The Realness.” (Photo courtesy of Thyrsus)

“The Realness” was selected for full production after winning Thyrsus’s annual Thyrmpetition. Tell us about the play.

The Realnessexplores the commodification of emotion. There are some scenes inspired by reality TV, and others that are more conceptual in nature, but the primary story follows a relationship between two college students. It’s a story about being young. My hope is that our audience — which is mostly WashU students — sees or hears something that reflects their own experiences.

But my greatest hope is that the many people who made this show possible — the cast, crew, designers and Thyrsus board —  feel that they’ve made something they can be proud of.

As a playwright, what do you learn from actually staging the work? How do things change when you hand the script over to the cast?

“The Realness” has evolved a great deal, and everyone involved can claim a degree of creative ownership. They’ve asked interesting questions, engaged in thoughtful discussions and thought of things that wouldn’t have occurred to me. I’m so grateful for how the writing, rehearsal and design processes have overlapped and informed one another.

The cast and crew have been generous and enthusiastic, sharing their creativity and sharp insights. The play is so much better for their involvement.

It’s a team sport.

Performances of “The Realness” begin at 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, Nov. 9 and 10; and at 2 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, Nov. 10 and 11. Tickets are $5 and are available in the Danforth University Center from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. the week before the show.

Performances take place at 6128 Waterman Blvd. For more information, visit Thyrsus on Facebook.

Day of Shame 2018

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