On February 24 and 25 Quest students performed Colony Collapse in the MPR. Despite its name, the play is not about disappearing North American honey bees. If you came expecting that, you would have been stung (ha ha) by a much more human story.
Written by Stephanie Zadravec, Colony Collapse was recognized on The Kilroy List of Outstanding new plays by women in 2015. Second-year Ava Swanson, who directed the play, says she chose it because it was written by a woman and featured a predominantly woman cast. It also happened to be the first play that she got the rights to.
The play’s leading couple, Julia (Jordan Kaltenbruner) and Mark (Sean Kliman), are recovering meth addicts who become reacquainted with Mark’s estranged teenage son, Jason (Graham King), at the same time as a search for a missing girl (Inian Moon) unfolds on their property.
The lights came up on a chorus of guilt-ridden parents (Grace Dwight, Maya Cook, Ian Connolly, Jeff Howe, and Andrea Denny-Jiles) distressed by the mysterious loss of their children. The story moves to the farmhouse of Julia and Mark, who are broke and broken but hopeful about the start of a new life. As Jason’s living situation with his meth-addict mother, Nikki (Fiona Harris), becomes unsafe, he reaches out to his father and step-mother in search of the sense of family he is lacking.
Kaltenbruner’s performance was captivating. She explained that playing the role of Julia was challenging because she has never experienced meth-addiction and there are not many resources on how to act like a recovering meth-addict. “I spent five full minutes shaking my head and scratching myself until I felt like I was going a little crazy to get into that space of messed up head. I just tried to embody something totally unnatural for me,” she said.
While most of the play is dimly lit characters in emotional distress, it is punctuated in one notable scene, where Jason stumbles home inebriated while his parents are being questioned by the police. As Jason undresses on stage and tells a disjointed story of meeting a ghost, he implicates his parents situation with the police, but provides much needed comedic relief for the audience.
Colony Collapse explores environmental justice, addiction, and family, topics that Swanson said are important issues in the world, even they’re not always spoken about at Quest. “I was pretty stoked on Colony Collapse because it is a really interesting commentary and a really unique way of telling a story.”
Swanson and Kaltenbruner echoed the Quest community’s general sense that there is a lack of opportunities and spaces for arts at Quest. However said not to worry about a lack of theater arts on campus. “We have Colony Collapse, Naked, and Cabaret, which are three major performing arts shows. Quest is not lacking a theater community; we just have to make it happen,” Swanson said.