Student play “A Guided Tour” tackles issues with unflinching honesty

As part of the Queer Theatre Festival, a group of students will present senior Michael Vaughn’s play “A Guided Tour.” A semi-autobiographical expression of the playwright’s struggles with depression and sexuality, the play represents Vaughn’s senior thesis as part of the Edgar Fellows Honors Program.

Vaughn writes his journey in a unique way, portraying his experiences as a literal tour through a mental museum. Junior Rachel Tamarin led the production as director and staged it in a way that embodies Vaughn’s vision. S

ophomore Nathan Trombley narrates Vaughn’s inner conscious as he looks back on the events that shaped his life. As the guide, he is the foundation of the tour.

There is also another level to the play’s characterization of Vaughn. Freshman Lucia LoTempio portrays the character of Michael, who experiences the events as the narrator presents them to the audience. Michael physically embodies the person experiencing these events, providing insight into the spontaneous emotions and day-to-day struggles.

Vaughn said casting a female in the role of Michael was an artistic decision to emphasize that depression is not gender specific.

The rest of the production subverts gender roles as well. Various characters are played by opposite sexes. This concept, however, is difficult to grasp onstage. Although it is an artistic statement with deliberate meaning, it can be challenging from an audience’s perspective.

The events throughout the play range from Michael’s first sexual encounter to dealing with bullies in middle school. All of the scenes are reproduced from actual events. There are even some situations based in Geneseo.

The narrative can seem scrambled at times as the play rushes through various situations. The message, however, is clear: Depression is a very real thing.

Since the play covers such prevalent topics in modern society, Vaughn has organized a Q-and-A session for audience members. He hopes to spark dialogue in a safe space and address the issues that are addressed in the play. “I don’t want people walking away from something like this without giving them the chance to talk about it,” Vaughn said.

“[The play] does a good job of talking about what depression is because it comes from someone who has dealt with it,” LoTempio said.

Vaughn related that the journey of creating this piece is just as significant as the production itself. Vaughn began writing “A Guided Tour” in English professor Beth McCoy’s African American Migration Narratives class. The final project required him to write his own personal migration narrative, and the result was the start of this play.

After working extensively on the script for a year-and-a-half, Vaughn said that he decided he wanted to present it as a full production. After several other students requested to produce pieces that related to sexuality, the Queer Theatre Festival was organized with the assistance of theatre and English professor Melanie Blood.