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Play with Ghosts: Echoes of Miami Blurs The Line Between Museum and Theatre

This weekend, the Miami University Department of Theatre is putting on a set of shows different than a typical performance. "Echoes of Miami" is a compilation of ten-minute plays written and directed entirely by Miami University students and alumni.

The premise of the show includes stories about eight of Miami's mysterious ghost stories. Each short play will take place in various rooms and hallways around the Center for Performing Arts led by three actresses portraying one of Miami's most historical figures, Helen Peabody.

"There has been a lot of time put into these pieces, but it's been an interesting process because my character gets a chance to interact with each of the actors in all the different shows," said first-year Laura Smith, one of the main actresses.

Smith, along with two other actresses also playing Peabody, will introduce and uncover the mysteries of old Miami legends such as the disappearance of Ron Tammen, the murders of Reid Hall and the run-down mental asylum turned dormitory, Wilson Hall.

There are three players that each identify with a different version of Helen Peabody -- historic Helen, defender Helen, and man-hating Helen. As the show's main narrator, the character of Helen Peabody interacts with most of the other actors and contributes to each of the performances.

"It was a lot to take in at first, but, as a freshman, it was very interesting to memorize historical facts about the campus and almost gauge a better understanding of Miami through getting to know my character," said Laura Smith, the actress portraying the historic persona of Peabody.

"The three of us represent who Helen Peabody might have been, because we don't really know what her personality was exactly like, and although we are three different characters of the same person, we interpret and deliver the lines differently.

"There is also a certain respect for these characters because they aren't fictional, and we really want to honor and serve the history of the campus through the process," Smith concluded.

These unexplained ghost stories are a fascination of creator and producer of the show, Saffron Henke.

"[Henke] has been wanting to produce this for four years, and when an email went out to all the theatre majors asking if we would write for it, I responded almost immediately," said Olivia Gorom, one of the writers and directors of the show centered around the murders of Reid Hall.

The first drafts were finalized in February of this year and editing continued well into the summer before auditions took place in August.

All scripts included in the show were created and staged by a different writer and director duo with the exception of Gorom, a sophomore, who is the only student directing the same piece she wrote.

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"It was a little difficult because I am the only sophomore directing and don't have as much experience, but I didn't want to write my own script and not see it through," she said.

These student-written scripts are one of the most unique aspects of the show.

"The show I am directing would be characterized as one of the more dramatic ones, so it stands alone in that aspect, but there are also the elements that come together from each show which I think is pretty cool," said senior Nate Bissinger, a director of a performance exploring the disappearance of Ron Tammen.

"I've directed before, but this was very different for me because it is the first time I've directed mainly one actor in a show: the character of Ron," said Bissinger. "There are also shadow puppets in mine, and that is something that I've never done before, so it's been very interesting."

Bissinger's piece involves a more intensive character development. It focuses more on Ron Tammen's inner struggle, as opposed to conflict with another character.

"The script is very raw, and Ron's character has to go through this journey of discovery, and has to learn to be at peace with the fact that he is in this state of being lost and can't move on because he doesn't know what happened to him," he said.

Directed by Caroline Avolio, Nate Bissinger, Olivia Gorom, Christiana Molldrem-Harkulich, Saffron Henke, Raechel Lombardo and Tanner McCormick, "Echoes of Miami" will take place at 7:30 p.m. on Oct. 18-21 in the Center for Performing Arts. Tickets are $8 for students and $12 for adults.