'U.P.' brings new media and elements to long awaited play

The MSU Department of Theatre is putting on its semester production, “U.P.,” this week through Sunday.

The play, written and directed by MSU assistant professor of media acting Mark Colson, depicts the life of character John Garden, who lives in California but is unhappy and does not know what he wants. He ends up dropping everything and moves to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan to find answers for all the questions he has about his life.

Colson said he wrote the piece 10 years ago with a partner in Los Angeles. When he came to Michigan, MSU saw his work and took the risk to have it performed on campus. Yesterday, Colson saw his long awaited piece come to life at the RCAH Auditorium.

“This is a really great experience to see your work come to life,” Colson said. “It first started as a film but people in California were not catching onto the idea, but then I came to Michigan and pitched it as a play just to see if we could give it some life.”

Senior lead actor Adam Sutherland explained how this production reminded him of the themes in the award-winning movie “The Wizard of Oz.”

“During my analysis of the script, it made me think of Dorothy (from ‘The Wizard of Oz’ ),” Sutherland said. “John comes to meet three very distinct but important characters throughout his journey to Michigan.”

The play incorporates many media and film elements, something new for the theatre department.

For Colson, the process of bringing the new technology and elements to life was a new experience.

“We have original footage to play throughout the play from L.A. to here,” Colson said. “Myself and the actors [sic] went to Michigan Motion Picture Studios and shot some green screen things to impose them in the exterior images that we already shot.”

With the implementation of multiple types of media, Sutherland felt the pressure to portray John Garden right and to help make Colson’s vision come to life.

“Since Mark wrote the script, I understand that this is his baby,” Sutherland said. “I feel that I need to do this for him as his world premier and make him proud.”

Theatre senior Michelle Serje, who plays John Garden’s wife, said working on this production has been a great experience for improving her own skills and working with different levels of actors.

“This play needs such a big cast, but it’s so awesome working with different types of people,” Serje said. “This play has given me the responsibility to create my own character.”

Colson said he is excited about this production because it is something new, and he wants to see the audience’s reaction.

“I don’t know what to expect,” Colson said. “Rather than trying to feed audiences what I want them to think and feel, it’s up to them on how they see this production.”

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