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The Antelope

Say It Out Loud!

UNK Theatre performs ‘anti rom-com’ written by alumna
Juice and Callie gossip about Callie’s crush when he enters the coffee shop. Photo by Shelby Berglund / Antelope Staff

Last week UNK Theatre presented “Say It Out Loud”, a play penned by UNK’s own alumna, Lauren Bonk. Deemed by Bonk as an “anti rom-com”, this play explored self-identity and the realization that people are not defined by romantic relationships. 

“Say It Out Loud” has been 18 years in the making, originating as a short story in Bonk’s creative writing class at UNK in 2006.

“The short story was received really well by not only my professor but my classmates,” Bonk said. “I always had a soft spot for it in my heart and eventually decided I wanted to turn it into a play.”

Set in 2006, the story followed Callie Godrick, a 30-year-old navigating life post-divorce and going through the motions after the harsh split. With her ex-husband’s presence looming at an upcoming wedding, she’s forced to confront buried insecurities and unravel the complex web of emotions.

The cast included UNK students Olivia Behrens, Aspen (AJ) Girard, Nikki Knoell, Bri Linden, Keegan Spence and Alexis Tira, as well as alumni Danny Grimm and Jared Zwiener.

The play was directed by Suzanne Withem and features an original soundtrack by Mark Rose, vocalist/guitarist for the American rock band Spitalfield. 

Withem believes that anyone in the audience has the ability to see themselves on stage.

“Even though Callie’s story is kind of specific, the fact that she’s dealing with prioritizing herself is a universal theme and something everybody can relate to,” Withem said. 

Bonk began seriously rewriting the short story into a play in 2018, then returned to the project after the COVID-19 pandemic. She presented an unfinished version to the UNK Theatre Department in early 2021 and then held table readings with UNK students and alumni in October 2022. Last week, all of those years were put to the real stage.

“It’s been a really cool experience to see the openness and willingness of the students to trust a new script and to trust their director with a new script,” Bonk said. 

As the play took form, Bonk was able to give the actors rewrites and revisions, a luxury unique to an original production and having close interactions with the playwright.

“In other shows that I’ve done, typically you have a script and you stick to it,” said Makayla Strosnider, the stage manager. “In comparison to this production, it’s been more about testing the waters. We go through the scenes with the actors and if something’s not working, we have the ability to discuss it with the playwright herself and find the issue.”

By combining this unique opportunity with the “smart and insightful” cast, as described by Withem, the result was a successful play.

“The students brought so much from their lived experiences to the play,” Withem said. “It has been cool to see that interchange of them bringing their expertise to their roles and melding it into something everybody gets to see on stage.”

Olivia Behrens, who played Callie in the production, said that her personal connection to Callie’s character made this production special.

“Callie and I both have a love for writing, coffee and being overdramatic,” Behrens said. “She uses a lot of humor to get through dark conversations and it’s been really fun to play her.”

Photos by Shelby Berglund / Antelope Staff

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Rachel Ostdiek
Rachel Ostdiek, Executive Editor
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