Witness at the Kennedy Center: Georgetown student theater on display

September 3, 2009

Miranda Rose Hall (COL ’11) identifies herself as an indulgent writer—the kind who wears socks and drinks tea while she works. Those details are telling: her work is as comforting and sensitive as her penchant for wearing socks and drinking tea would suggest.

Conceived as a daydream in first-year biology, Hall’s one-act play, Witness, has evolved from doodles in notebooks to actors on stage. Witness was selected for production and performed as a part of Mask and Bauble’s Donn B. Murphy One Acts Festival this past spring, and then went on to win first place in the adult dramatic literature category of the Larry Neal Writers’ Awards, sponsored by the D.C. Commission on the Arts and Humanities.

Now, Hall’s work has been selected for a staged reading at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts’ Page-to-Stage festival this weekend.

Witness follows a father and daughter, Harold and Lyla, as they yearn for a relationship with their deceased wife and mother—an exercise in memory mediated by Old (an elderly Lyla at the end of her life) and two hydrangeas. Harold plants two hydrangeas, Honey and Falfie, and feeds them letters he writes to his dead wife.

Hall describes the hydrangeas’ role as a “photosynthetic origami.” In their life cycle, the flowers teach Harold and Lyla that in order to grow you must release what you have. The flowers experience profound loss as the season changes and they lose their petals, but ultimately demonstrate resilience as fallen petals fuel their growth the following season.

One of the play’s central questions is how to have a relationship with someone you have never met. Inspired by a longing to know her own great grandparents, Hall identified a visit to their graves at age seventeen as a key catalyst for Witness. She recalls bringing her deceased great grandparents two hydrangeas and talking to them for hours—like the symbolic roles of Honey and Falfie as mediators of memory.

Double majoring in English and Theater & Performance Studies, Hall is deeply immersed in the arts at Georgetown. She shifts roles from poet to playwright, to actress and director.

As both poet and playwright, poetry is one of Hall’s primary artistic concerns. Hall draws upon the idea in poetry that the word “stanza” also means “room.” She asks, “What would a house made out of poems look like? How can I build a house out of poems?”

Set in their family home, Harold, Lyla, and Old erect a house and space with words and verse. “The play is about longing, release, and poetry,” Hall said.

Even in the spotlight, Hall remains humble about her play. She said that she values the workshop and revision Witness has gone through already, and will continue to refine her work until it realizes its maximum potential. As for Witness, Hall said that she plans to “keep working and expanding” her project.

Witness will be read at the Page-to-Stage festival at the Kennedy Center this Saturday, September 5th at 2:00 pm

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