Student Production Haven offers commentary about the necessity of maintaining safe spaces

By Angelique Archer ’20

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The Untitled-at-Large production of Haven took place on April 27 at 7 p.m. in the Chapel. It was a culmination of four weeks of work for directors, writers and stars Emily Aviles ’19, Haley Tietz ’19, Ricardo Millien ’19 and Michael Ricio Matt ’20. Auditions for the show were held on March 31, and the cast—which began as eight and dwindled down to the four who performed on Saturday—got to work with the hopes of creating a piece of experimental theatre that combined their various experiences to explore the highly-debated topic of safe spaces. 

The show itself explores the story of four characters—April’s Fool (Aviles), Romeo (Millien), Tomorrow (Tietz) and S.H. (Matt)—who meet and interact with one another through the use of a notebook that is left behind in a church that they all frequent. All of the characters are all accounts strangers to one another, yet are dealing with similar issues of loneliness and self-hatred. They find companionship within the confines of the journal that they share. However, when they decide to meet in person, the possibility of friendship quickly dies as the characters of April’s Fool, Romeo and S.H realize that they know each other from around school. Haven examines the contradiction between the personas people show on a day-to-day basis and who they actually are and questions whether one can ever completely remove the veneer and make honest connections with others. 

Through the creation and breakdown of the safe spaces created between the characters, the show leaves the audience with the tenet that they cannot rely on notebooks or churches or even on others to reach a place of true happiness, that finding happiness is not simple, but that it is possible. Millien hopes that what people get from the show is the idea that, “Havens are not easily established,” and that “those who are trying to support someone who is struggling with something should simply listen and support rather than trying to force someone to feel safe and secure.” 

What makes the show unique is its incorporation of different mediums including piano music performed by Tietz, a song written and performed by Aviles and spoken word piece performed and written by Millien and Matt. These pieces allow this dynamic show to express the talents of its performers and adds another layer to the story itself. 

The cast themselves were very impressive as well. I could tell that this cast had spent time developing their characters and really creating the bond needed to act with one another on stage. 

Aviles was strong and completely real, expressing the character’s pain and raw emotion beautifully. Millien and Matt were very entertaining to watch as well, flowing between characters (they also portrayed the demons of Aviles’ past) seamlessly. Tietz’s portrayal of the soft and supportive Tomorrow was very refreshing and provided a great contrast to Aviles’ character.

Hopefully, Haven is the first in a long line of theatre productions at Hamilton College developed and performed by its students. 

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