Play about first Illinois College president opens

By Benjamin Cox on October 27, 2018 at 11:51am

The Illinois College TheaterWorks 2018-19 season opened Saturday evening with the first of six scheduled presentations of a brand new historical play.

“Against the Tide” is the story of Edward Beecher, the very first president of Illinois College. The world premiere play was written by historian Tara McClellan McAndrew with IC Professor of Theater Nancy Taylor Porter and Assistant Professor of Theater Aasne Daniels. The show is also directed by Daniels and will be performed in the Sibert Theater of the McGaw Fine Arts Center. Showtimes are November 1-3 at 7:30, November 4th at 2, and a special showing in Springfield on the 9th at the Governor’s Mansion.

Daniels explains the process of workshopping and devising this brand new piece of theater.

“We got the first draft in August and held auditions in early September. Throughout the process, we’ve been giving the actors re-writes. Sometimes, we’ll stop the process and really hash a scene out, and we had to remove many scene ideas that simply were not moving the process of the plot forward. It’s a big story, with a cast of 40 or more characters, and we’ve got 15 students to portray these roles, so almost everyone plays more than one role. It was really fun but difficult figuring out the logistics of who would go in what spots. We create a compelling and human story out of the resources we had, which were mostly speeches, letters, and other public documents.”

Daniels describes the experience of working with renowned historian and historical playwright Tara McClellan McAndrew.

“Her research was copious and tireless. She was so eager to have her play workshopped with our students, so she was super open to any and all suggestions. She was super fun to work with.”

This production has been honored with the assistance of a Forgotten Illinois Action Grant, awarded by Illinois Humanities. IC Theater’s grant is one of several that was awarded this year in honor of the state’s bicentennial. The grant funds projects that highlight lesser known aspects of the state’s 200-year history. Other projects to receive funding from the organization include research, artistic interpretations of history and classroom-based activities.

General admission tickets are 10 dollars. Illinois College and MacMurray College students get in for free to all TheaterWorks shows, and the student price for 18 and under, as well as other students with valid identification, is 5 dollars. According to Daniels, the IC theater program is not providing ASL interpretation for any performances of “Against the Tide”.