Theatre and Dance students write, direct coming-of-age play

Alejandra Martinez

In a small town where poor boys can’t talk to rich girls, an unlikely friendship begins between the richest girl in town and one of its poorest boys. This is the premise of “Poor Boys’ Chorus,” a new play set to premiere Friday at the Student Activity Center’s Black Box Theater.

According to Brian Kettler, the play’s writer and a theatre and dance graduate student, what follows is a coming-of-age love story.  

“I was really inspired by what I see as some classic coming-of-age stories — so movies like ‘Stand by Me,’ movies like ‘My Girl,’” Kettler said. “It was really an attempt to tap into the feelings [that are] evoked by those kinds of stories.”

For Natile Novacek, theatre and dance graduate student, being the director of the play was about bringing human feelings and conflicts to the stage.    

“It’s also a story about people choosing to make a connection against all odds, people choosing to embrace the light or the dark in them,” said Novacek. “And people who are forced to make choices very early on about what their life is going to look like.”

“Poor Boys’ Chorus” has been a departure from what Kettler usually writes.

“I tend to write a little more naturalism or realism,” Kettler said. “This play is not that. It’s a lot more poetic. There’s a chorus of three boys that drives the action. I’d never written a chorus before into a play.”

The first time Novacek and Kettler began to work together on “Poor Boys’ Chorus” was in a classroom.

“I was lucky enough to be in a class together with Brian, and we were paired to work on it together,” Novacek said. 

In the same class was Will Douglas, the theatre and dance undergraduate who will play Steeds. For Douglas, the amount of time spent playing the character in class prepared him for his time on stage. 

“When you don’t have a performance that you’re getting ready for, you have a lot of space to play, get things wrong and mess up a lot,” said Douglas. “Already having that playtime with the character definitely has made this a lot easier.”

With “Poor Boys’ Chorus,” Kettler and Novacek hope the audience can find an escape from reality, if only for a short time.

“I’d love for them to have that feeling that they’re lost in this kind of fun, dangerous, theatrical world and have them kind of forget that they’re on the UT campus for a little while,” said Kettler. “So that’s my hope, that when the play’s over it would be like waking up from a dream or something.”