PSU Theater Group Premieres Play Written, Directed, and Performed by Students
Come one, come all to the world premiere of The Hick Inbreds of Valley Low, produced by student club PSU Stage and written by Portland State theater major and club leader John Pinney, whom Vanguard readers will recognize from his regular column Subpar Advice from the Sub-Basement.
Directed by PSU student Andrea Acosta, the two-act drama/comedy tells the story of a single mother and her family, with a twist on the title: The family aren’t really hicks. The play starts at 6 p.m. and runs Feb. 2–3 in Smith Memorial Student Union, room 294.
Pinney is one of the three creators of PSU Stage club, which produces student-run productions, workshops, volunteering and educational opportunities, and is funded by the Student Activities and Leadership Program. Pinney is the only one left from the original three leaders; as he is graduating this term, the club is seeking new leadership.
“We all have kind of the singular mission of advocacy for students,” Pinney said. He believes that theater can help any kind of student, and often helps students overcome the fear of public speaking. Students with all different interests—be they pre-med, pre-law, electricians, anthropologists, or physics majors—can come together in the all-encompassing theater.
Pinney believes that students need to get out of their comfort zone and make an effort to learn what they enjoy. “It’s a matter of people saying, ‘hey, I really want to do this,’” he said. “It’s like what I say to students: You need to advocate for your education. We will give you a job, but what is it that you want to do, what is the experience you want? And if you don’t know you can always say, ‘I don’t know!’ and that’s great—we will find something for you!”
“As a new student, I don’t think you realize how much power you actually have,” Pinney said, adding that he is huge on the idea of advocacy through student groups and firmly believes in being an active participant in one’s own education. “Often times, I don’t think people understand how much they affect the quality of their own education.”
He has taken full advantage of this educational opportunity, which led to him creating and producing his own play. For this play, he took the approach of “don’t judge a book by its cover.”
“These characters are amazing people with passions,” Pinney said. “Just because you are from a farmhouse doesn’t mean you can’t be a genius or have beautiful thoughts.”
Director and PSU junior Andrea Acosta chose to focus on how close-knit the family remains throughout their struggles. “One of the main characters has his own struggles, but he really has these people that are there for him,” Acosta said. “Whether they help him in the right way or not, they are there.”
Acosta has previous directing experience, but calls this her first “grown-up” play. Director and writer worked together to make their interpretations of the play come to life. Pinney specifically chose to ask someone other than himself to direct so that he could see someone else’s vision of it. “The vision I have as a playwright is directed differently by everyone,” he said.
PSU sophomore Raz Mostaghimi portrays local pastor Jenny Macmillian, who advises one of the main characters on a trip abroad. Mostaghimi has never acted in a play written by a fellow student but is excited for the new experiences it will bring.
“It’s interesting how the playwright is here in rehearsals,” Mostaghimi said. “We get this view of the script and the play that we don’t normally get in rehearsals.”
Mostaghimi also feels that performing a peer’s play brings a new sense of appreciation for the arts. “We aren’t just taking some scrump we found in the library and performing it,” Mostaghimi said. “We’re bringing something that a fellow PSU student worked so hard on, and we are bringing that to life.”
The production is completely free for all, as the main goal is to allow the audience to get a glimpse of what PSU Stage is about. And anyone can create their own student group: All it takes is three student leaders and a total of five student members. Clubs which continue to meet for one year without funding are then assigned a SALP advisor to begin funding.
Visit pdx.edu/student-leadership/join-or-start-student-organization for more about joining or starting a student club. More information about PSU Stage is available at facebook.com/PSUSTAGE.