Class recreates highly acclaimed book The Postmortal

Hector (played by Laith Helo) gets emotional as he presents a Powerpoint presentation to the lecture hall about over population. The Postmortal Performance Project was presented by the University 100 class on Nov. 14. Photo Credit: Richard Kontas/Contributor

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Finding a cure for aging is something that has not yet been accomplished in the world we live in. However, in the Postmortal world, the idea is surfacing and being discussed as a possibility of the future.

Twenty-eight CSUN students from 13 different sections of University 100 rehearsed their own rendition of Drew Magary’s book The Postmortal and composed it into a 45-minute performance.

The performance takes place during November 2019 where three girls have decided that they want to hold a meeting in Oviatt 25 to address a new legal cure for aging where students can voice their opinion on the matter. The set up of the room allowed audience members to be a part of the performance.

The direction of the play steers away from Magary’s original version in order to cater to the student’s perspectives. The play’s manager, Dr. Ellen Lerner, discussed how she came up with the idea of the reformed play.
“I did a similar but less ambitious version of this project using the Freshman Common Reading book The Soloist a few years ago,” Lerner said. “It was well received and I began thinking how a project such as this was a win-win situation.”
One of the contributing writers, Karina Schink, discusses the differences between the book and the CSUN performance.

“The performance isn’t a dramatization of the book, we are taking it in a different direction,” Schink said. “None of the characters in the play are ones from the book. We want to take the fears, realities, and themes that are in the novel and express those in a form that is hopefully more familiar to the student body of CSUN.”

Altering the play to cater to the students was a challenge for the writers of the new script, according to Schink. Incorporating the numerous perspectives of the many writers behind this project also proved to be somewhat difficult. Actress Yvonne Zimmerman voiced her opinion on the challenges she faced.

“Since I am an actor, a challenge I faced was trying to develop the character I am cast to play,” Zimmerman said. “It is a new character, Nora, that was created by the writers and actors, including myself. I am realizing that acting does not only entail memorizing lines and cues, but I need to get to know my character’s personality, habits, and overall nature.”

Lerner took this play by the horns to create a unique script that allowed all writers to contribute to a play that has never before been shown. Schink displayed her appreciation towards Lerner’s commitment to turning this into a creative performance.

“A lot of the original ideas came from Dr. Ellyn Lerner, and her commitment and absolute brilliance should be highly credited and appreciated,” Schink said. “Honestly, sometimes I don’t know how she does it. She’s incredible.”

After hours of practice working through the script, Schink expressed her excitement for how the play turned out.

“I am so proud,” Schink said. “We are working with a lot of new actors and their willingness to just plunge in and trust us, the writers and coaches, has been incredible to witness and take part in.”

Not only did this project allow students to be a part of a school performance, but through the process they also developed friendships with one another. Zimmerman was among the students to cultivate new relationships through this project.

“My favorite part is getting to know students and teachers outside of a strictly academic setting,” Zimmerman said. “We are all learning and growing together, learning lines, cues, personalities, and how to put on a performance in just eight weeks from scratch. I have met so many wonderful people in this experience.”

With a sold out show, many of the audience members were pleased with the performance. CSUN freshman, Emily James, attended the play to observe.

“I thought it was a great set up of the meeting,” James said. “I liked how the audience got to be a part of the play and how they brought up current issues we’re facing within the performance.”

The overall positive experience that many of the writers, actors, and performers expressed by being a part of this experience indicates a positive outlook for the next project.

“This has been such a positive experience for me,” Schink said. “I went out of my comfort zone and it paid off. I cannot wait to see how this project progresses next year.”