Cape Cod Community College Students Team Up with Fishermen in the Play 'Boundless'

Nov 6, 2019

Credit courtesy Cape Cod Community College
A play exploring the life and work of fishermen opens this week at Cape Cod Community College. The cast features both student and community actors, along with some special guests—local shellfishermen. The play itself was was written using interviews with fishermen from around the region. WCAI's Kathryn Eident talked with Vana Trudeau, Coordinator at the school's Tilden Arts Center, about "Boundless."

Eident Vana, this play is about fishermen, and it was written in a rather unusual way. Can you briefly explain how this play was written, and the information that was gathered to do it?

Trudeau So Allison Weller, the playwright, undertook this project using a methodology that was developed by the New School in New York City. And, their technique is to go out into a community and interview people within a certain segment of that community, or folks that are connected to a certain social issue or point of interest. And, from those interviews, take their words and assemble them into a dramatic storytelling. So, rather than coming up with fictitious characters and some imagined storyline, the stories that we see unfold in Boundless are directly taken from the real stories of real lives, of real fisherman right here on Cape Cod.

Eident The actors in the original version of this play—some of them had the opportunity to do some of those interviews and meet fishermen. What about the students and some of the community actors in the play that's going to be at the college? Was there a challenge in conveying some of those personal stories and making it real for these actors since they didn't have that kind of initial process that the original actors had?

Trudeau Well, because Allison wanted to add and update some of the material in the original stories, we actually had a couple of guests come in, some of whom were interviewed in the original round of developing the story. So, our actors did have a chance to hear from some of the original characters. One of the most exciting things about this cast is that we actually have two bonafide shellfishermen in the cast. So, they brought a lot of their own personal experiences to the rehearsal process and helped add some really personal touches to the reality that the students and other community actors saw unfold on the page.

Eident It's small cast, I understand. You have some actual fishermen and then students and then some community actors. What challenges does a combination like that pose as an educator, but you're also producing a production that's for the public?

Trudeau I find it really exciting because when we get to assemble people from different backgrounds, it only enriches the process. You know, students are here to learn a craft and they're developing that craft. So, when we bring in a guest director like Julie Hamilton, they're learning a little bit about her process, and when we bring in community actors, they sometimes have the opportunity to see folks that have participated in theater in our community and beyond purely for the joy of it and the love of it. It may not be what they pursued as a career, but certainly they have talent and they bring a lot of that experience to the table. And, then when we have someone who's very new to the world of theater, like our our shellfishermen, there's this excitement, there's this newness for them. In a way, it’s nice to see that fresh-faced approach to the whole process.

Eident Music is also a part of this play. Can you talk about the role of the selection of songs?

Trudeau So, the music is all original. And, it's a lovely combination of styles of music, everything from the sea shanty to what we also might call in the musical theater world, a "torch song," which is a love song. In this case, to Seals—don't want to give too much away, but it's a really fun moment within the show. So, it's very accessible music and everyone in the cast has noted how much it sticks with you when you leave the theater.

Eident Can you talk about some of the themes to play aims to bring to life?

Trudeau You know, this story really just shines this wonderful soft light on real people who live this every single day. It helps us understand what their challenges are, and perhaps puts into perspective the approaches that our regulators and legislators are taking in their efforts to really win on both ends. We want to protect our fisheries, we want to protect the fishing stocks, but we also want to protect a way of life. So, we don't provide any answers. We ask a lot of questions and invite the audience to consider their role within the community and how some of these decisions might affect them.

Eident The play is Boundless. It's being performed this week starting Thursday at Cape Cod Community College. Go to TildenArtsCenter.Eventbrite.com for show dates, times and tickets. Vana Trudeau, thank you so much.

Trudeau Thank you so much, Kathryn.

Find show dates, times and tickets at TildenArtsCenter.Eventbrite.com

This transcript was lightly edited for grammar and clarity.