Last night, NOMADS held their customary first-show gala for their newest student piece: Portrait and a Dream. Bwog’s Katheryn Thayer now reports.

We know finals are coming up, but what better way to de-stress than to watch someone else worry about the end of the world, death, and losing everything important? Student writer Jacob Rice, CC ’12, quips, “People keep asking me what the play is about, and so far, the only answer I’ve been happy with is: ‘It’s about an hour and forty five minutes.’”

The concept began as four hundred Post-its on Rice’s wall and undoubtedly turned out much better than the four hundred Post-it notes crammed into your textbooks will. Its short scenes were artfully strung together into a thought-provoking work through the collaboration of writer, director, and actors. Student theater groups differ from repertory theaters in that the creative process includes collaboration; as actors familiarized with their characters, they offered suggestions for new scenes and changes. Rice made changes as he saw the show performed, and the director, Alex Brinkman-Young, could share Rice’s plans for the look and feel of the play. Rice enjoys “experimenting with a huge amount of power,” and recognizes how lucky he was to have the patience of the cast and crew: “I change things up a lot. I feel bad—the actors were incredible! They had to memorize their lines and then re-memorize and re-memorize as I rewrote.”

Though Brinkman-Young, an accomplished student director studying to receive a directing concentration at Barnard, had never worked with a writer before, she went from the “exciting but terrifying” fear of “Oh god, he has a vision!” to feeling “so proud of how much it has changed.” In the end, she found that she enjoyed the experience of working with a writer. “When you don’t like something, you can change it,” and this allows the cast to become involved in the process as well.

The short scenes in the beginning of the play feel so brief that one may wonder whether the decentralized authority over the script lent itself to a lack of cohesion, but the disjointed style is intentional. In a game-changing second act, the shaky presentation is artfully focused into an intensely poignant depiction of love, frustration, self-deception, and human tragedy, or as Rice describes: “love and betrayal and life and shit.” The meaning of the play is more fully understood as the fragmented scenes become increasingly complex and interconnected, as Rice’s intent was to write something “highly non-linear [because] it’s about letting the audience find out.”

What stands out most are the intelligent characters. They make literary references; they analyze what Apocalypse means; they decry brunches that lack the logic to fall between breakfast and lunch. The banter is witty and the self-searching monologues intimate; Brinkman-Young calls it “a very wordy play.”

NOMADS President Kurt Kanazawa described it as their “most conventional offering” compared to their next semester’s offerings: 5 Minute Plays, Brownies Café puppet shows, and Fringe Festival (writers, actors, and directors interested should request applications from

So good luck studying, but really make it out to this show. Before you set off on your next two-week camping trip in the scenic Butler Stacks, remember, “all you have to do is not die and you are surviving.”

Portrait and a Dream will be performed again tonight at 8 p.m. and tomorrow night at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. in the Austin E. Quigley Blackbox Theater on Lerner 5. Tickets are $5 at the TIC.