While most Hopkins students were away from campus on their summer vacation, members of the Hopkins Drama Association (HDA) were busy producing the annual student-directed summer show.
Until last year summer, productions generally followed well-known scripts such as Almost Maine and A Midsummer Night's Dream, but this year the play, The Chance of a Lifetime, was written entirely by Hopkins student Abigail Murphy ‘23.
Murphy began working on The Chance of a Lifetime following her experience as an assistant stage manager for the Summer 2021 student production, Actions Outlive Us, written and directed by Makaio Toft ’21. Said Murphy, “I loved working on that summer show, and then, at the end of the summer, Makaio was like ‘Hey Abigail, you should write something because they’re gonna need another show.’” Murphy added that this suggestion was “a little bit intimidating,” as she had never written anything of that scale before, but, two months later, after co-founding the Hopkins Script-Writing Club, she decided to re-visit Toft’s recommendation: “I started writing a few scenes around Thanksgiving Break, and then I basically wrote every single day for two hours after I had done my homework.” By February, Murphy had completed nearly four drafts of The Chance of a Lifetime.
The plot of The Chance of a Lifetime changed drastically throughout all of Murphy’s revisions. Murphy said, “None of the scenes from those first couple of drafts made it into the final play at all…It really changed so much.” At first, the premise of The Chance of a Lifetime was “a college reunion with four characters: a college professor talking to his three students who came back for an alumni day.” Then Murphy added more characters, which caused the plot to change. The final plot centered around former high-school-teacher-turned-ethics-researcher Jordan, his intern Dara, and their ambitious and ethically questionable experiment to prove that humanity is good. “They invite some of Jordan’s high-school students back to the experiment and drama ensues,” said Murphy.
Murphy knew she wanted to keep all of the characters on stage throughout the duration of the play: “I’ve always loved plays where all of the characters stay on stage… My middle school put on Anne Frank and all of the characters stayed on stage, which I thought was so cool.” This led Murphy to think about different ways she could keep all of the characters on stage, even if it was in multiple rooms, and her plot took shape around this idea. Murphy explained, “I created the concept of having interviews in one room and the interviewees in the other room waiting.” Eventually, Murphy decided that the interviews would be for a biography in a prestigious magazine: The Barnowl.
For Murphy, The Chance of a Lifetime has been an opportunity to fulfill a goal she set when she first arrived at Hopkins: “[to try] other aspects of theater besides acting so I could understand the discipline better.” Although she still prefers acting, Murphy’s experience writing and producing The Chance of a Lifetime has led her to “really [learn] to understand theater as a whole so much better." According to Murphy, “I would have never understood the working of scripts and how natural dialogue is done if I hadn’t written it. I would have never understood directing.” Murphy said, “I have a more rounded view now, which I think will be really helpful in the future.”
The Chance of a Lifetime will be preformed Friday and Saturday, September 9 & 10 at 7pm in the Townshend Auditorium. Tickets $1 at the door.