Certain Death and Other Considerations

Kevin Brustuen

Headlines in the news talk constantly about disasters ready to befall us every day in the form of climate change, economic woes, perilous politics, and a threatened reshaping of world order. The continual flow of negative news about the future is having an unexpected impact: younger adults are hesitating about planning for their futures; some young people considering starting a family are having reservations about bringing a baby into this already crowded and troubled world.

Bozeman resident Kyrie Dawson, along with four of her friends, acted on these spoken and unspoken fears of their generation. They noticed that their frequent discussions about current events always seemed to come back to the same eco-anxieties. Further, they found comfort, solace and release as a result of these conversations. Following their passions and interest in theatre, they turned their discussions in a positive direction and created Certain Death and Other Considerations, a play that gives voice to their fears and concerns. On May 10th and 11th, they are putting on a fully staged production of this play as part of Verge Theater’s ‘New Play Fest’ here in Bozeman.

The New Play Fest is the perfect venue for presenting this play. As the name implies, the festival features new playwrights and their not-yet-published plays, which likely would have little chance of being seen or heard elsewhere. Local playwrights have been invited to audition their works to be part of this festival. Twelve plays and playwrights have been accepted to present their work at the festival as staged readings, which will be open to the public.

Certain Death and Other Considerations is the story of two couples who are making choices about their futures. Making their decisions is clouded, while at the same time clarified by the knowledge that the world will end in 80 years. The process that culminated in this play is instructive and interesting, and was not predictable when these friends first started working on their idea.

Dawson met her friends at Lewis and Clark College in Oregon, where they were working towards a degree in Drama. They created an informal group called the 920 Collective as a way to begin formally putting their thoughts into a theatrical format. They all liked the idea of framing the play in an 80-year timeframe, so they could play with the idea of showing what an individual’s entire lifetime might be like.

Using the framework of Greek tragedy, the play begins with the audience well-aware of what the final outcome is; in fact, the clock that is center stage for this show displays 80 years, counting down as the play proceeds, letting the audience know how many days, months, years left before the world ends. Further, the play does not follow strict chronological order, but moves back and forth through time.

The 920 Collective applied for acceptance into the Edinburg Fringe Festival, and in September and October of 2023, they took Certain Death to Scotland. Over a four-week period, they gave twenty-one performances. The Edinburgh Fringe Festival has a few strict rules about performances, one of which is the time limit: each show has a total of only sixty minutes to do setup, perform their play, strike the set, and vacate the stage. This timetable caused them to focus the show very tightly, stripping out any unnecessary words and movements, paring the show down to the bare essentials needed to tell the story. 

The version of Certain Death the 920 Collective will bring to the Verge stage as part of the New Play Fest will be a few minutes longer than the original 60 minutes allotted them at the Fringe Festival, with a bit more focus on enhancing their movements on stage to help tell the story.

The Verge Theater is now in its 30th year of operation, having been founded in 1994 as The Equinox Theatre. In 2011, they changed their name to the Verge Theater, by which they’ve been known ever since. The Verge’s mission is “to create and offer arts education and offbeat, thought-provoking, heart-inspiring theater that is empowering and accessible to all members of our vibrant local community.” New Play Fest organizers felt that Certain Death and Other Considerations would be a great anchor piece, and an encouragement for all the other up-and-coming plays presented at this festival. 

For more information about the New Play Fest please see the Verge website at www.vergetheater.com.

For more information about the 920 Collective and the play Certain Death and Other Considerations please visit www.certaindeathplay.com.

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