‘Starcrossed’ weaves themes of mental health, personal journey, and collaborative healing in challenging times
The Virginia Tech School of Performing Arts will present its first theatre production of the spring semester, the world premiere of “Starcrossed,” this month. The play will open on Feb. 22 and run for eight performances in Squires Studio Theatre.
The play follows the story of Gone; her twin brother, Theo; and their circle of friends, all of whom have a pact: After graduating from high school, they’re taking off across the country to a music festival. When Theo takes his own life and an unexpected pandemic forces the world into isolation, canceling the festival, the friends decide to follow through with their original plan, bringing Theo’s ashes with them to scatter under the stars.
Grace Georgo, a senior double majoring in theatre arts and business, plays Gone. “My character’s purpose,” she said, “is to fulfill the dying wish of her twin brother by going on this journey.”
Wrestling with their wounds and insecurities, these friends find themselves immersed in a mystical abstract set, alive in their own midsummer night’s dream, where past wounds are torn open, friendships grow, and dots are connected to radiant futures, like constellations in the sky.
“The theme of mental health is a huge factor in this show,” says playwright Peter Gray, who began writing the script in while in New York in the spring of 2021. “I hope the audience gleans a better understanding of what it’s like being a teenager in the world today and gains the ability to emphasize empathy in their engagements with young adults everywhere.”
“Starcrossed” is a contemporary riff on the “Antigone” story, focusing on the theme of the underdog while bridging two worlds: ancient Greece and present day. Playing the role of a modern day Greek chorus, the “Mythmakers” are physical manifestations of characters’ key traits, which at times contrast and at times align with their respective characters.
The play focuses on the outsiders; “people not necessarily thought of as the stars of the show,” Gray said. “I hope people can walk away with having more understanding for the underdogs.”
Ryan Holcomb, a first-year criminology student who plays Theo, commented on the unique rehearsal process involved with a new work. With the playwright’s involvement in the room, he said, “we are able to workshop the lines and receive concrete script interpretations. Some small script changes occur every few rehearsals. It’s a great, cohesive process.”
Gray finds value in the collaborative process as well. “I have so much respect for the cast, going to classes all day and bringing their A-game for rehearsals each night for this challenging show,” he said. “Students have been so prepared, collaborative, giving, and open. They clearly feel very excited to be here.”
Michael Alvarez, a visiting assistant professor of directing in the School of Performing Arts, who previously worked with Gray in New York, says the show’s heavy subject matter digs deep and “focuses on the healing process for all of us. It’s effective because in some ways, you need a process to even begin that process.”
Performance dates, times, and subject matter
Performances of “Starcrossed” are Feb. 22-25 at 7:30 p.m., Feb. 26 at 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m., and Feb. 28 and March 1 at 7:30 p.m. in Squires Studio Theatre, located in the Squires Student Center at 290 College Avenue on the Blacksburg campus.
The production contains adult language and content, including alcohol use, and the subjects of mental illness, suicide, and abortion.
Tickets and parking
Tickets, which are $12 for general admission and $10 for seniors and students, may be purchased online, over the phone by calling 540-231-5300, or in person at the Moss Arts Center ticket office. Tickets as available will also be sold at the door beginning one hour prior to the performance.
All university community members and visitors will need to display a parking permit, use the ParkMobile app, pay a fee, or pay using an hourly meter to park on the Blacksburg campus unless otherwise noted by signage. Find additional parking information here. Additionally, visitors can drop off and pick up guests directly at the Squires Student Center entrance.
If you are an individual with a disability and desire an accommodation, email Susan Sanders or call 540-231-5200 during regular business hours at least eight business days prior to the event.
Written by Ian Gammarino, a graduate student studying biogeography in the College of Natural Resources and Environment