Plays of PlayFest: Specific Legacy

Issue 15: April 19, 2023

I’m sure all students are anticipating next Friday when classes are canceled and the day is cut short because of the academic symposium. Although I’m sure it is a well needed break, for some students, don’t let that get in the way of coming to see PlayFest!

 In my article last week, I talked about the 5 shows chosen to be showcased at this year’s PlayFest. I got a closer look at the rehearsal and creative process behind the show Specific Legacy when I interviewed their playwright Hayli Isbel. As the days get closer to the premier of PlayFest, I wanted to examine more aspects of this project through a student and directorial perspective!

I interviewed Specific Legacy’s director Babak Akavan, and supporting actress Honna Turner about their experiences working with each other, with the cast, and with the theatre.

Turner is a biochemistry major here at McMurry University. She has always been interested and influenced by the art of theatre but had not considered participating in a production until this year, when auditions were open to the community. “I have always been someone who has loved the theatre and individuals who are a part of it. However, I’ve always been the one to watch it come to life rather than be the person who creates the story for someone else to see.”

Turner shares that she admires and is excited that the theatre has opened its doors to the community, because if it hadn’t, she might not have gotten the opportunity to explore an unfamiliar but passionate hobby. “I think it’s a great way for people to get involved who may not necessarily know a lot about theatre. I myself am someone who is new to theatre and I may not have gotten the opportunity to try this if it weren’t for them.”

The shows director, Babak Akavan, is a senior theatre major at McMurry and shares a similar testimony when talking about his experiences with this project. Only having directed one show previous to this, Akavan is excited and honored to be directing Specific Legacy. His cast is unique in the sense that it is the only show being produced with a child actor. With this special characteristic comes distinctive struggles and strengths. Akavan shares that the biggest challenges he’s faced as a director has been keeping everyone in a balanced mindset. “I have a child actor in my show and they bring so much light to the stage. Finding that balance for them is challenging at times but working with everyone and finding that right emotion or correct display of characters is the most rewarding feeling for me.”

Even through these struggles, Akavan has big ideas and goals for this show and his cast. He explains the advantage of having the playwrights influence in his show, saying, “The story is a beautiful tale… [and] working with Hayli Isbell the playwright has brought me so much joy.” Akavan shares that getting to work and experience the intimate source material is inspiring and powerful. Stating that, “This show is about non-traditional families finding each other. The main message of the show that I feel conveys to the audience, or that I would like to convey to the audience, is no matter what, there is a place for you. Family finds you.”

Turner has experienced that theme first hand through this project. Entering this event as non-theatre major was nerve wracking for her, but she shares that from the very first day, “I have had nothing but overwhelming love and support. [The theatre has] accepted me into their family as if I had been here since the beginning. It has been amazing getting to work with such talented individuals.”

Don’t miss the first ever debut of Specific Legacy next Thursday 9:20 pm, and Friday 7:00 pm at PlayFest!