‘As We Lie Still’ play to showcase life and death

St. Petersburg, Fla., junior Amy Weaver rehearses a scene from the WKU Theatre & Dance Department’s upcoming play, “As We Lie Still.” The show opens Monday, May 5, in the Russell Miller Theatre, and is part of the program’s Before Broadway Series. (Luke Franke/HERALD)

Kristina Burton

The Before Broadway series at WKU is presenting a new musical that showcases themes of magic, love, life and death.

Performances of “As We Lie Still,” book by Patrick Emile and Olivia de Guzman Emile, and music and lyrics by Patrick Emile, feature actors and singers from the WKU Theatre & Music Departments.

Greenville senior Oliver Pierce said “As We Lie Still” is all about a magician.

“You see him in young and old form,” Pierce said. “It’s a telling of his life and the encounters he has with a girl. There are scenes that take place when he’s older and in the hospital, recalling his youth. It deals with this world and the afterworld. It’s an interesting piece.”

Pierce plays the younger version of the magician.

“He’s arrogant and egotistical, but loving,” Pierce said.

Amy Weaver, a junior from St. Petersburg, Fla., plays the magician’s assistant.

“She has a daughter, so that’s kind of her main priority,” Weaver said. “But some things happen between her and the magician, so you see the progression of those two. There’s a few twists.”

Pierce said the magician needs his assistant in order to do “an awesome trick that’s also dangerous.”

“It can only be done with her,” Pierce said. “She’s very important.

Nashville junior Caleb Pless plays the protector of a purgatory world.

“Everyone who comes through to meet him ends up leaving to go to heaven or hell, but he has to stay in purgatory for the rest of his life,” Pless said. “He longs to make a connection with somebody and have a friend or someone to talk to, but he can’t get that because his job requires him to move people on.”

Pless thinks it’s cool to be playing such a deep, emotional character.

“I haven’t played anything here before that requires that deep of an emotional connection,” he said. “It’s driven from the heart, not the mind, which is a different aspect for me to perform and convey.”

Pierce said after reading the script for “As We Lie Still,” he could tell it definitely wasn’t going to be like any show he’d done before.

“It has the exotic appeal of a weird, interesting plot,” Pierce said. “But it also deals with very human things like love, an ego problem, and the want to stay, but the need to go.”

Weaver said it’s really cool to get to participate in a staged reading like this because almost no one has really performed the material before and been a part of it.

“Some of us are the original people who get to play these characters,” she said.

“Normally, you do a show that’s been done on Broadway before, so you have a standard to live up to,” Pierce said. “But now we get to set the standard and that’s exciting.”

Pierce said his favorite part of the process is when the composer and writer comes to see the students and give feedback on what they’re doing.

“In the week before the performance, lines change, songs are added and taken away — it explodes in our face and we’ve got to piece it together before opening night,” Pierce said. “It’s a collaborative smorgasbord that’s a lot of fun.”

Pierce said there will be a talkback with the writer and composer after the performance.

“The audience can add things they’d like to see, or things that didn’t work for them, or ideas they want to suggest to the playwright,” Pierce said. “He could take that to heart and use it. The purpose of these workshops is to put them up and see the audience’s reaction. A show is not complete until it’s performed in front of an audience.”

Tracey Moore, director of “As We Lie Still,” said since the staged reading won’t feature costumes, lights and sets, it will leave a lot more to the imaginations of the audience members.

“The experience they’ll have with the show is more personal,” Moore said. “It’s not like someone else is going to tell them how it looks. And it’s a cool way to see how something starts out and get a look behind the scenes.”

Moore said getting to meet the writer and composer is a great connection for the students.

“Past writers we’ve brought in have given students work once they moved to New York,” Moore said. “This is a connection with the real world we’re making here.”

“As We Lie Still” will be presented in a staged-reading format on Monday, May 5, at Russell Miller Theatre in the Fine Arts Center at 7 p.m. Tickets are $3, and cash is the preferred form of payment. Tickets may also be purchased online at wku.edu/theatre. The musical is rated PG-13.