Senior acting student, first-time director premieres at Fringe Festival

Senior theater major Meredith LaBoon steps behind the red curtain this September to shape lucid dreams into theatrical reality.

Premiering at Philly’s annual Fringe Festival, the Rainy Day Players’ production of “Asylum” by Keith Aisner marks LaBoon’s directorial debut. The plot focuses on protagonist Gary and his obsession with lucid dreaming, which is the awareness of dreaming while in a dream.  This preoccupation quickly morphs into a dangerous addiction.

“What [“Asylum”] is about is the struggle for control,” Laboon said.  “[Lucid dreaming] is an environment where you have complete control, but with addiction there is little to none.”

“Asylum” handles addiction as a diverse phenomenon, one that involves more than drugs or alcohol. This alternative take attracted LaBoon to the story.

LaBoon first heard “Asylum” in a monologue-based acting class she took during the spring semester of her sophomore year.

After reading the play in full, LaBoon said she was hooked.

“I fell in love,” LaBoon said. “I knew I had this story that I needed to tell.”

LaBoon enlisted friend and Temple student Brennen Dickerson to the fill the dual roles of production cohort and leading actor.  In conjunction with the play, the co-producers were inspired to establish a theatre company under which to produce “Asylum.”

Thus, Rainy Day Players was born. LaBoon, whose experience at the time was limited to acting, took her place as the production’s director.

“As an actor you tell the character’s story,” LaBoon said. “I wanted to direct to tell the complete story.”

LaBoon and Dickerson constructed their cast and crew entirely of Temple talent.  The current bill features a wide range of ages, from a sophomore actor to a lighting designer who recently graduated with his Master of Fine Arts from Temple.

Funding for “Asylum” flowed from a combination of corporate sponsors, fundraising events and Dickerson’s professional pastry talents. However, the largest portion of funds came from Kickstarter, a crowd funding website where fans of the play could donate to the cause.

“[Kickstarter] is really cool,” LaBoon said. “It brings people in as part of the project.”

Little did she know it would bring in Keith Aisner.

“He sends me this message on Kickstarter and all it says is, ‘How can I help?’” Laboon said. “I flipped out. I completely flipped out.”

Since getting in contact with the “Asylum” team, Aisner has become involved with production, Skyping with cast and crew for a Q&A session on the script and designing the official “Asylum” poster art.

After a year and a half of preparation, the premiere for “Asylum” is less than a week away.

“There are these moments where you think this is never going to happen,” LaBoon said. “‘What did I get myself into? How’s this going to work?’ But we’re in a place now where everything is coming together. I’m just so excited.”

“Asylum” will be at the Walnut Street Theatre, Studio Five Sept. 12-14 at 7 p.m. and Sept. 15 at 1 p.m. Tickets can be purchased through the Rainy Day Players website or the Fringe Arts Box Office.

Suzannah Cavanaugh can be reached at suzannah.cavanaugh@temple.edu

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