Eden Experiments: Westridge Theater’s First Entirely Student-Run Play

Set in a futuristic world, Westridge Theater’s newest theater production, “Eden Experiments,” reflects on the unprecedented time of the pandemic and asks larger questions about human behavior and ethical decision making. This play will be the first entirely student-created and student-led production in Westridge history, meaning that students are in charge of writing the play, leading the design process, directing, performing, and creating a soundtrack. This format gives more students the opportunity to participate in the creation of a play.


“Eden Experiments” is inspired by a play that Mr. Kruhm, Director of the Theater Program,  remembers from his middle school, “La Dispute,” in which four orphans are raised in isolation as an experiment to answer the question of whether mankind or womankind committed the first infidelity. “Eden Experiments” is written as a response to “La Dispute” and is structured as a reality TV show.


The students began organizing the play the second week of January and the final edits to the script were completed by the first week of February. Student writers spent up to three hours each day writing the play, with one week to draft and one week to revise. Because of the nature of the way the play will be filmed, it is written similarly to a screenplay, and other aspects will be more film-like.


“Eden Experiments” is also a comedy, a way to poke fun at serious topics “in a very light, fun, silly kind of way,” said Mr. Kruhm.


Alex S. ‘24, a member of the music group, also noted that the portrayal of the scientists, the authority figures of the show, functions as comedic relief. When asked what they thought of such a portrayal, especially given the role that science and scientists are playing in the current pandemic, they offered a theory: it is some way to cope with all the uncertainty. They mentioned how these scientists contrast the serious ones in real life; “We don’t want to make this serious. We don’t want to make the scientists how they are here.” 


The play humanizes the scientist characters by placing them in hilarious situations that compromise their status as the most knowledgeable. It also serves as a reminder that authority figures are not exempt from behaving ethically. The scientists must confront the consequences of their own action and defend the integrity of their experiments on the six teenagers. The play also explores the consequences of science being turned into entertainment.


Because Westridge students are both writing and performing the play, some students are going to be performing a role they themselves wrote. Jadyn L. ‘22  will be playing a minor character in the play and is on the writing team. She said, “When you’re writing lines and not just reading them it’s almost like you have a deeper connection to that character.” 


Beyond creating new ways for theater students to embrace their characters, this also gave writers a new lens with which to view their own work. Coco G. ‘21, who is both on the writing team and one of the actors, found herself surprised by hearing it read aloud for the first time, “I didn’t realize how much I liked the script until the first read.” 


The play also offers students other unique ways to connect with the story and the characters, such as creating unique music for each character. The music team is creating a special sound for each of the characters to let the audience know when that character is in the spotlight. Alex S. ‘24 talks about what it is like doing something like this for the first time. “It’s really cool because I haven’t shared my music with anyone.”  Mr. Kruhm describes the music team’s work as similar to scoring a film.


Releasing personal work out into the world for everyone to read, let alone perform, can seem to some like an insurmountable challenge, but this sort of vulnerability is exactly what theater requires and what draws both audiences and performers to it — with or without the pandemic. Although theater may have lost the in-person sense of community, with this production it will undoubtedly gain another; from collaborating and trusting each other throughout the writing and performing process, the students involved will have gained a new sense of community.


Audrey M. ‘21 is grateful for the new theater opportunities for students. She says that the usual system of having one student designing a costume for each part can be somewhat competitive. This is the first year Audrey is part of the costume crew. Outside of school she loves to draw clothing and create outfits but had never had enough time to participate in both costume crew and scenic design. However, the pandemic affords her the flexibility to fit both in her schedule. She said, “Because there is more flexibility with remote learning. I finally had the chance to do costume and scenic at the same time.”


Additionally, Audrey likes the sense of ownership she and her peers feel for the play. She said, “It’s been really nice to work with a larger group of people and really have more ownership in a way.” The nature of the play has allowed more people to audition for important roles than ever before. She talked about the fact that the play has been a ray of hope in an otherwise disappointing year; “I think it’s really fun to create something from scratch, and I think us creating this play has been really fun.”