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Performing Arts

The University of Oklahoma School of Drama presents 'Live! From the Last Night of My Life,' just your everyday epic tragedy

None April 15th, 2010

"Live! From the Last Night of My Life"
8 p.m. Wednesday-Saturday, 3 p.m. Sunday
University Of Oklahoma
School of Drama
OU Lab Theatre, Old Science Hall
640 Parrington Oval, Norman
$8 adults, $6 students

Developed at the University of Oklahoma through the school's playwright-in-residence, Wayne Rawley, "Live! From the Last Night of My Life" tells the story of Doug, a suburban Mini-Mart employee who decides to record his suicide on the store's security cameras at the end of his shift.

The play follows Doug's descent into madness as he struggles to find meaning in his failure as a human being and the resolve to make it through what he desperately hopes will be the final graveyard shift of his life. That descent includes a roller-skating scene, a big dance number and an exploding clock.

"Never once has anyone rolled their eyes at me or made me feel like I'm crazy for writing all these moments into this play," Rawley said. "It has only been about, 'Well, how do we make this work?'"

Rawley said the inspiration for "Live!" came from a friend's dream and the experience of growing up in a small town in Washington.

"I think many people in my hometown "” and perhaps hometowns everywhere "” are living their daily lives as kind of epic tragedy," he said. "I want to write about that epic tragedy of a regular day."

By using a character trying to explain something that's unexplainable, Rawley said the play explores the inescapable nature of daily choices, many of which are confounded by depression. Rawley said that he hopes audiences will empathize with Doug.

"I hope they see some truth in what he's gone through and some hope," he said.

Rawley said his OU residency has afforded him a chance to focus on writing, which he said is an "amazing and rare thing." He's also been able to teach playwriting, which he credits for changing his perspective while writing "Live!"

"I'm taking my play through some of the same work I'm asking my students to do," he said. "It has broken the play wide open for me. I've been able to make huge leaps because of the work I'm asking my students to do.

"I think one of the things the School of Drama hopes a visiting artist will do is inspire the students, but honestly, I'm the one who is inspired."

During the development process, Rawley completely reworked the play's ending and changed the antagonist. A partnership with the Circle K convenience-store chain also inspired him to include a new character that has become pivotal.

Other changes have come through working with the cast and the play's director, Matthew Ellis, whom Rawley described as an invaluable resource.

"He is incredibly smart," he said, "and he has done a great job. I am very lucky to have him at the helm."

Rawley also praised the play's dramaturge, Kae Koger, an associate professor of theater history at OU.

"She has so many great ideas and great suggestions, especially in the arena of what we can lose, what I can cut. I trust her. At this point, she knows the play maybe better than I do," he said. "Plus, she is a great speller, which I appreciate because I am not." "”Eric Webb
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