Players connect with playwright

Ellie Gavin , Staff Writer

This spring, the Staples Players had the rare opportunity to work with E.M Lewis, the playwright who wrote “The Infinite Black Suitcase,” the show Players is currently producing.

“The Infinite Black Suitcase” explores many complex themes, such as disease, suicide, and sexual orientation. In fact, the show has never been performed by a high school cast before. Throughout their journey producing this challenging show, the Players have been in communication with Lewis herself, who answers their questions as the Players bring the show to life.

“I’m very pleased that Staples High School has chosen to produce my play,” Lewis said. “People shouldn’t underestimate high school students’ ability to explore and understand emotionally complicated questions of the human heart.”

Players had the opportunity to ask many questions ranging from the way in which the word “Aunt” is pronounced in the the state of Oregon (where the show takes place), to how Lewis feels about the stages of grief and acceptance of death that take place in the play.

After several deaths in her own family left her grieving, Lewis was inspired to write “The Infinite Black Suitcase.” Some of its characters are based on real people, including a character based on Lewis herself.

Lewis said she feels that it can be difficult for actors to portray characters who are older than they are and who have had experiences that they haven’t had, which is one reason that “The Infinite Black Suitcase” is a difficult show for young actors to take on.

Julia Greene ’15, who plays Liz Miller, finds Lewis’s insights to be helpful in developing her character. “Hearing her talk about the pain of losing others and giving a background on the real community the setting of this play emulates, helped me make my character more real,” Greene said. “For others, I think learning about the real people their characters are modeled after has helped them connect more with their characters as well.”

Fellow cast member Jack Bowan ’15 agrees with Greene, mentioning that Lewis’s openness in discussing how she dealt with the death of her husband helped the cast better understand the grief of the characters in the show. “She has not only helped us understand the show more as a whole, but she has helped us understand how people, in general, deal with death,” Bowman said.

Despite the challenges the roles present, Lewis remains optimistic about the students’ ability to do her characters justice despite their young ages.

“I hope that the young actors in the play haven’t experienced great losses themselves.  But I believe they’ll be able to empathize with the characters that they’re playing, and portray both the precariousness of life and the preciousness of it,” Lewis said. “Almost all of us have someone in our lives who we love, and don’t want to lose.  The play is about trying to hold on — and about trying to figure out how to go on.”