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Clemson Alumni Play Looks at Superheroes

By Paul Hyde for Greenville Online

Dismayed by the challenges facing young stage actors these days, six Clemson University theater alumni decided to make their own opportunities.

They formed the Wishbone Theatre Collective in Chicago and immediately began to create a theater piece through improvisation and intense group discussions.

The first result of their work was “Spandex,” a meditation on superheroes and justice that will be performed Thursday and Friday in Clemson University’s Bellamy Theatre.

The play already has been presented at prestigious venues for experimental theater, including the Chicago Fringe Festival in 2011 and the internationally renowned Edinburgh Fringe Festival in 2013.

“Spandex,” featuring a cast of seven, juggles three storylines, according to Laurie Jones, Wishbone Theatre Collective’s artistic director.

“A group of young kids are doing presentations on superheroes, so they invent their own superheroes to solve the problems that are biggest in their world,” Jones said. “The second storyline follows a group of adults who are debating the death penalty in their own community. The third storyline offers superheroes personified.”

The play explores the American obsession with superheroes and questions ideas of perfection and bravery.

The Wishbone Theatre Collective was formed by several Clemson theater alumni who had moved to Chicago to further their careers.

“One thing Clemson did really well was make us understand that we needed to make our own work and that we needed to work together,” Jones said.

Most of the members of the group still live in Chicago, although Jones now is based in Los Angeles.

The 10 members of the troupe converge on Chicago at least once a year to explore future theatrical projects. They also confer each month by Skype.

“Spandex,” like everything else the group does, was created by the entire ensemble.

“We first did a bunch of improv and filmed it,” said Jones, who graduated from Clemson’s theater program in 2008.

“Then we sat around and had really difficult discussions on justice. From the discussions and improv, I went back and tied everything together. Then each person wrote their own superhero monologue. It couldn’t be more collaborative, from the beginning to the end.”

Jones, who works for a documentary filmmaker focusing on social justice, is also bringing “Unmanned: America’s Drone Wars” to the Brooks Center on Wednesday. Featuring more than 70 interviews, the Brave New Foundation film investigates the impact of U.S. drone strikes at home and abroad. The 8 p.m. screening is free and open to the public.