Caught in the act

Published: February 2008

On Sunday March 13, 2005, Scott Cummings, a Boston College theater professor, watched a live televised press conference given by Ashley Smith, 26, of Atlanta. For seven hours the previous day, the young widow had been held hostage in her apartment by an armed fugitive who had killed four people while escaping from a courthouse in which he was being tried for rape. As flashbulbs popped, Smith described her night of captivity, during which she read aloud to her captor from the Bible, cooked him pancakes, and showed him photos of her family. Apparently, her faith and respect moved the man to set her free. By Sunday evening, Smith had hired a lawyer in anticipation of book and movie contracts.

For Cummings, a director and the author of seven plays, the press conference was “one of the most astonishing performances” he had ever seen. Inspired, he began writing scenes and vignettes for a work of “collage” theater that would explore, in his words, “crime as entertainment, privacy versus celebrity, the presence of God in everyday life, and the possibility of starting life over.”

Scheduled for performance on the University’s Bond Theater stage February 20–23 by an all-student cast, Ashley’s Purpose explores Smith’s story “almost the way a Cubist painting” might, says Cummings, from multiple angles—including imagined conversations, verbatim interviews, dance, and traditional spirituals (sung by Boston College’s Voices of Imani). More so than for most plays, says Cummings, the script took shape in rehearsal, with students collaborating on assembling its various elements and Cummings directing.

@ BC presents an audio slideshow of photographs taken by Boston College photographer Lee Pellegrini at an early rehearsal on Robsham Theater’s main stage, when some members of the ensemble (see thumbnail photos, below) were considering material for inclusion, blocking out scenes, working with the choreographer, and playing games with a rubber ball to develop rapport among cast members. The soundtrack accompanying the slideshow is a collage of interview excerpts from conversations with Cummings and the students.

David Bruin

Bruin '09

Megan Coreen

Megan Green '08

Scott Cummings

Scott Cummings

Amanda Engborg

Amanda Engborg '08

Richard Greenwood

Richard Greenwood '11

Meghan Heart

Meghan Hart '08

Jessica Kelly

Kelly '08

Sarah Lunnie

Sarah Lunnie '08

Laura Murphy

Laura Murphy '08

Patrick Ryan

Patrick Ryan '09

This feature was posted on Tuesday, February 19, 2008 and is filed under Slideshows.
Writer: Daniel Soyer, Producers: Miles Benson and Paul Dagnello