The Theatre Department’s first show of the 2023-2024 season is Bianca Vranceanu’s Sisterhood of the Survivors. Since Vranceanu began writing the show as a senior, it has been intertwined with CAMD and Mills College.
The playwright has previously talked about coming up with the idea as part of her capstone while working with Professor of the Practice Melinda Lopez. Then, the play went to Mills College, where it underwent a workshop experience as a staged reading directed by Professor of the Practice Victor Talmadge. Now it comes back to CAMD with Talmadge directing the full production. We caught up with Bianca to learn more about the journey her show has taken. This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Sisterhood of the Survivors feels deeply connected to CAMD. I read that you began writing this play after taking a Melinda Lopez class and then brought this play to Mills to workshop the piece. How did creating, workshopping and staging this piece within CAMD/Mills affect your process? How did the workshop influence the play that the actors are working on now?
The development of this play was deeply supported through the mentorship and opportunities provided by Melinda Lopez, Antonio Ocampo-Guzman, Victor Talmadge, Mills, and CAMD. Melinda Lopez is a fantastic mentor and I had the privilege of having her as my advisor for my Capstone project.
As I developed [Sisterhood of the Survivors], Melinda provided detailed feedback and asked thoughtful questions that helped me reflect upon and refine my writing. Her help and guidance significantly impacted my experience during the creation of the script; I am immensely grateful to have worked and continue to work with her.
Melinda facilitated the introduction between Victor Talmadge, who is a theatre professor on the Mills campus, and me. Victor has a background in documentary theatre, which is one of the genres this piece falls into because the source of the material was derived through interviews with survivors at the shelter. With this introduction came the opportunity to engage in a 2-week playwriting residency at the Mills campus, which was arranged by the joint efforts of CAMD and Mills.
During the playwriting residency, we had four public staged readings. During the week, we engaged in a workshop-styled rehearsal where Victor would direct the actors. This process sparked meaningful conversations and helped me further define character dynamics, fine-tune monologues and dialogue, and incorporate more theatrical moments. Additionally, we held talkbacks after the staged readings which allowed audience members to share their feedback on the play. This process was informative.
After the residency, Antonio reached out to me and informed me that The Northeastern Theatre Department was interested in producing Sisterhood of the Survivors on the Boston campus this fall. He also put me in touch with my dramaturg and fellow Northeastern alumna, Hannah Levinson. Hannah and I worked together to edit the script based on the insights gathered from my residency at Mills. Our collaboration involved establishing goals for the play and ensuring character tracks and the story arcs were strong and supported. This led me to the finalized form of the script, which is being produced by Northeastern!
I also saw that you’ve continued writing plays outside of CAMD. What skills did you develop at CAMD that you bring with you into new projects?
During my time at Northeastern, specifically through the classes I took within CAMD, I developed strong writing, collaboration, and critical thinking skills. My professors often challenged the class to reflect upon the message of their piece and how the intended audience will be impacted, encouraging us to use our work as a drive for change or advocacy, this ethos has carried into my playwriting.
Collaboration is a skill that I gained through my theatre classes that has proven to be immensely useful in my work today. Theatre is a collaborative space and I work on projects with new people.
Since I graduated in May of 2022, I have seen three productions (now four!) of my pieces. My musical Reality Romance was performed at the Mass Arts Center, my play Sharks and Minnows was produced by Apollinaire Theatre in the 25th annual Boston Theatre Marathon, and my play The Infinite Moment of Now was part of the inaugural stage reading event at Stadium Theatre.
CAMD helped instill qualities of thoughtfulness and care into my work and collaborative efforts. Additionally, CAMD showed me the power I have to create stories that uplift, educate, and connect communities. When at Northeastern, I was always encouraged to take action and explore different creative avenues, within the academic landscape I felt supported and it built a drive in me to continue creating and using my craft to shed light on the stories that often go unheard.