All seniors who graduate from Hope College with a theatre degree are required to do one of two things: complete an internship or create a project, known as a 490. Megan Clark, a triple major in theatre, education, and history, has always known she would finish up her career at Hope with a 490 project. This semester, she is collaborating with fellow student, Makeya Royer to co-produce a play. Instead of turning to a published play, Megan and Makeya have chosen to produce a new work written by Megan:“The ‘S’ Word”, to help spread awareness of an issue that has impacted and continues to impact our culture : suicide.
Throughout her time at Hope, Megan has been involved in a variety of devised and student-led productions. All of these processes, from devised piece The Line Between to 490 Her Real Name Was, written by Deana Velandra (2018), have been primary influencers in Megan’s drive to create a meaningful piece. Megan was both cast in and designed scenery for Velandra’s production. She credits this production as being the moment her desire to write her own play was born: “I knew after being a part of the experience that I wanted to be able to write my own small play. But I didn’t want to direct it, I wanted to be in it.” So she is.
Megan partnered with Makeya, who is co-producer and director of the play, while Megan plays a character based on her own experiences. Makeya also serves as the play’s lighting designer in true theatre fashion, wearing different creative hats to bring the piece to life. Throughout her time at Hope College, Makeya has taken every opportunity she can to work with and observe theatre faculty as they direct productions. She loves to act, but through her experiences she has also learned that she enjoys putting together a show from behind the scenes as well. She says: “Hope has opened a door for me to experience what the process of directing is. I find passion in this because I still like acting, but I sometimes don’t want to work center stage. It’s a nice balance of still being a part of acting, but also working in the shadows to bring a productions together.”
“The ‘S’ Word” is woven together in a way that pulls a story line from Megan’s own life while also taking fictional liberties. The plot follows a girl named ‘M’ as she navigates her college experience with roadblocks such as depression, anxiety, rocky parental relationships, and more. In the play, ‘M’ works to keep up with her friendships and classes as she also works through the hardships of being a bisexual student attending a conservative university.
When I asked Megan what she hopes her audience will take away from the production, she gave me two answers.
First, she said: “There is no one right way to deal with life. There is also no one right way to come out, if that is where you are at in life, because this play deals with sexuality. Life is messy, but the important thing is that you find those people that are going to support you through it. If you don’t have a supportive family, create your own family with the people you meet. Don’t be afraid to ask for help when you get to a certain point. It’s okay to ask for professional help.”
She then adamantly concluded: “We need to talk about suicide. We keep shoving it under the rug. We have also kind of romanticized what suicide is. I hope my play doesn’t do that, because I want it to be painful, ugly, and real. If anyone is feeling like they are in that position, it is okay to ask for help. If you have a friend that is in that position, don’t tell them their feelings are invalid. Know the warning signs.”
When I asked Makeya the same question, she also had words of encouragement for the audience. She emphasized that “you are not alone.” She then went on to say: “The world has an idea of who you should be, but that doesn’t mean you should be that person. You should be you, and in order to be you, you don’t have to be ashamed to seek out help, such as therapy. There is nothing wrong with seeking professional help . You’re not alone, just be you.”
“The ‘S’ Word” is a moving story that deals with issues very relevant to our society today. Due to its painful content, Megan, Makeya, and their creative team want to make sure that everyone in the audience will be supported. The number for the Suicide Prevention Hotline is included in all advertising for the production. There will also be a talk back after every performance, offering closure on the content of the play for those interested in discussing its contents and connections to the outside world.
“The ‘S’ Word,” written and co-produced by Megan Clark, is co-producted and directed by Makeya Royer. The cast includes Megan Clark, Emma Clark, Emi Herman, and Judah Renshaw. Its creative team is made up of Valerie Dien (stage management), Timothy Embertson (scenic design), Peter Hayward (sound design), Maxwell Lam (costume design), and Makeya Royer (lighting design). Performances will be held in the DeWitt Studio Theatre on November 1 at 7:30 p.m., and November 2 at 3:00 and 7:30 p.m.. Tickets are $2 at the door.