MainStage Production, Winter 2023: And Thus They Began: A Decameron

Rehearsals Jan 17-Feb 19, Tech Feb 20-23, Shows Feb 24-25

This is a devised, ensemble-created piece. Instead of auditions, a required ensemble workshop session will be held Jan 17 at 7pm. Sign-up form available HERE. No previous performance experience is necessary; students of all abilities are encouraged to attend!

You're stuck in a house with ten strangers. What stories will you tell? In Boccaccio's The Decameron, ten young people quarantining from the Black Death tell each other increasingly wild, hilarious, debaucherous and moving tales. In our Decameron, we'll mash up our own stories, songs and dances with the original text, rewriting the canon as we destabilize ideas of authorship, translation, and societal norms. Join Professor Laurie Churba and experimental theater director Sarah Hughes '07 in creating a site-specific, immersive, devised theatrical adaptation, using approaches from devising theater companies like Pig Iron, Frantic Assembly, Target Margin Theater, New Saloon, Elevator Repair Service and The Wooster Group. No experience necessary, just curiosity about new plays, radical adaptations, or devising and ensemble processes!


Instead of auditions, a required* ensemble workshop for all interested students will be held Jan 17 at 7pm in Sudikoff 241. This workshop is for ANYONE: performers, designers, assistant directors, producers, dramaturgs, choreographers, musicians. It will give you a chance to meet Sarah and Laurie and learn more about the project. After this workshop we'll ask you to confirm by Jan 18 if you want to commit to the show. You can sign up for the workshop here.

We are interested in disrupting the traditional casting process and in making a radically inclusive production. Instead of casting a set of previously determined roles, we are a mini theater company. The ensemble can be any size and roles will be discovered collectively in the room.  In addition to performers we are seeking students interested in sound design, lighting design, dramaturgy, assistant directing, writing & script supervision, choreography, music composition and creative producing. A detailed list of roles and descriptions is here

While this piece will require a consistent and significant time commitment from students, we will adjust the schedule as much as we can to accommodate student needs. Availability is required for the ensemble workshop session, tech week, and performances (see below for dates & times).

*If you are unable to attend the Jan 17 workshop, please email by January 12 to schedule an alternative time.


Full *subject to change" rehearsal/tech schedule here, look for Devised Reh in blue.

All rehearsals will take place in Sudikoff.

Ensemble Workshop: January 17, 7-10pm

Rehearsals: January 18-February 19, typically 7-10pm on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, some 7-10pm Thursdays, some Friday afternoons, and 12-4pm on Sunday. 

Tech/Dress: February 20-23, 6:30-10:30pm

Shows: February 24 at 8pm; February 25 at 3 and 8pm

Students are encouraged, but not required, to learn about the Decameron prior to the workshop! Some great resources include this New Yorker essay, The Little Hours starring Aubrey Plaza, Molly Shannon and Fred Armisen, Pier Paolo Pasolini's movie Il Decameron (link to Pasolini's movie in Italian here and rent it from the Dartmouth library here), and reading excerpts from Wayne Rebhorn's modern English translation, available  here.


The production will be directed by Sarah Hughes '07, with the devising process led by Sarah and Laurie Churba. Designers will be Laurie Churba (costumes), Michael Joseph Ganio (environment/set), Lucy Biberman '23 (stage management); additional creative team members are TBA. Please contact if you are interested in joining the creative team!

In Giovanni Bocaccio's 1351 work The Decameron, written during the Black Plague yet remarkably modern in its sensibilities, a group of young people quarantine together in the countryside for ten days, telling each other increasingly wild, hilarious, debaucherous and moving stories to pass the time. Over the course of a six-week rehearsal process, visiting director Sarah Hughes '07 and professor Laurie Churba will lead students through a devising process, using the structure of The Decameron as a jumping off point for creating, staging, and sharing our own stories with an audience. Grappling with questions of authorship, translation, the purpose of storytelling, and shifting societal mores around sex, gender, and class, we will create a site-specific, immersive, devised theatrical adaptation that is completely our own. 

Students will generate, transform and edit stories for the script, test out different approaches to adapting and staging non-theatrical text, contribute to decisions about design and audience experience, and shape roles for performers. We'll explore approaches from devising theater companies like Pig Iron, Frantic Assembly, Target Margin Theater, New Saloon, Elevator Repair Service and The Wooster Group. Students interested in new plays, radical adaptations/re-definitions of what is considered "classic", devising and ensemble/community/company processes, experimental theater, and those with hyphenate or multidisciplinary interests will gain a lot from this experience.