After months of interviews, writing and editing, and days of rehearsals, “Leaves of Hope: A Play for Joplin” is set for a debut performance at 8:30 p.m. today at L.L. Sayers.
Last fall, David White — a Joplin native and theater professor at Towson University in Maryland — visited the ruins of his alma matter, Joplin High School, and the seeds for the project were planted.
With the help of a group of JHS seniors and the school’s theater department, he conducted 22 interviews with survivors of the May 22 tornado.
From the interviews, the theme for “Leaves of Hope” was developed.
“It’s not just about the tornado, it’s about the rebuilding,” White said. “We caught a glimpse of the voice of Joplin.
“The play ties into the pattern of people finding one another in the middle of a storm. It’s the type of unity that only deep tragedy can create.”
From 12 to 14 hours of transcripts, the group condensed the stories into an 80-minute performance.
White organized recorded readings of “Leaves of Hope” by his own theater students at Towson University. Those recordings were viewed by JHS students, who provided feedback via blog posts.
White said the credit goes to everyone involved, and that input from the students helped to provide the strongest parts of the play.
“It was our first real project; it was something beyond a grade,” said Taylor Haddad, a cast member and senior at JHS. “It was something that would stay for a long time, and it was something for the community.”
Tonight’s performance will be a “poetic presentation,” White said. The reading will feature White and seven JHS seniors: Bradley White, Ethan Ritschel, Sarah Matthews, Kaitey Hembree, Kelsey Hale, Haddad and Molly Baker.
“We want to make sure that this play represents Joplin and the resilient people of Joplin as accurately as possible,” Ritschel said.
Want to go?
“LEAVES OF HOPE” is part of this month’s Third Thursday activities. The 80-minute reading will begin at 8:30 p.m. today on the back patio of L.L. Sayers in the Gryphon Building, 1027 S Main St. Admission is free. Donations will be accepted. Proceeds will support the rebuilding of the Joplin High School theater department.