The Department of Theatre, Drama, and Contemporary Dance will premiere “JUMP” on Nov. 18-20 in the Wells-Metz Theatre as part of its 2021-2022 mainstage season.
The show’s theme centers around working through grief. “JUMP” is written by playwright Charly Evon Simpson and directed by Chika Ike.
“[This show] is a good example of what live theater can do and how live theater can create catharsis and tell a beautiful, intricate and complicated story,” Ike said. “You can't do this anywhere else.”
There will be 7:30 p.m. shows on Thursday, Friday and Saturday as well as a 2 p.m. show on Saturday. The show has a runtime of 1 hour and 40 minutes.
After the death of her mother, the story follows protagonist Fay as she travels through her journey with grief and tries to put her life back into motion. After visiting a bridge her mother would take her to as a child, she meets Hopkins, another person struggling with grief.
IU graduate student Eboni Edwards plays Fay. She said the story in “JUMP” is important to share because it answers the question, “What does mental illness, suicide or grief look like on people of color?”
Edwards said it’s common to see stories about mental illness and mental health with white characters, but “JUMP” takes those concepts and demonstrates what that story is like for people of color. Edwards said this is something that needs to be talked about.
“This story is very much needed because it starts to show us that we can have feelings and we don't have to just push through,” Edwards said.
In a production dealing with grief and mental illness, Connor Vincek, stage manager and IU junior, said it was important to often check in on the cast and crew’s mental health.
“It’s being able to say, ‘Hey, are you okay today? Do we need to do something special? Do you need to take a longer break in order to cope from that scene we did today?’” Vincek said.
Edwards said talking about these themes of mental illness can be mentally and energetically draining because someone’s body doesn’t know the difference between processing these real emotions and acting them out in a scene. She said she constantly had to keep herself in check and separate her real life from the role.
“I am making sure I'm okay and saying, ‘I am not my character. I am not Fay,’” Edwards said. “I'm only a vessel for Fay to tell the truth of the scene at this moment. I say, ‘I, Ebony, am not going through these actual things.’”
Vincek said Counseling and Psychological Services representative Dr. Raven Council came in to speak with the cast during the second week of rehearsals. She ran through her resources and was another advocate for the actors’ mental health.
Getting back to directing live theater, Ike said she thinks the COVID-19 pandemic and months of virtual theater made her more imaginative. She said she can see the traditional way a story is being told, but then see the differing, more imaginative ways to tell the same story.
“It’s just beautiful to share this space together again,” Ike said. “And I think that's what it's all about.”
Tickets are available on IU Theatre and Dance’s Ticketmaster. Tickets for children and students are $10 and tickets for adults are $20.