Danielle Brockmann ’13 is no novice when it comes to creating theatrical performances. Although she has not yet graduated from Hamilton, she has already founded her own production company, The House of Brockmann, and has written, produced and performed three plays. Brockmann’s fourth work, A Leurs Yeux, will be a result of the hours upon hours of work she has been able to complete thanks to her receipt of an Emerson Summer Research Grant.
All playwrights have their own process for researching and creating a work, Brockmann explains. Her first step is to clear her mind of her recent writing by reading about the subjects her play will encompass. Brockmann starts with a small, rough idea and then begins to search for small details she can use: images, allusions, character names and bits of conversation. She thinks in terms of images, reading through material until a mental image appears that can be integrated into her play.
Brockmann’s play creates a dystopian world where a new form of “education” has replaced traditional colleges. Students are forced to visit a special ophthalmologist who examines their worldview and “prescribes” other world views which students must look through until their own world view has merged into those prescribed. This way, she says, everyone sees through the same universal world view and completely understands the human condition.
Brockmann’s choice to set her play in a dystopian society is also essential to her message. She rejects the classical definition of dystopia and asserts that every society is imperfect. Brockmann claims that the use of a dystopia allows her to remove the audience from time and place in order to ensure that her viewers interpret the play without relying upon the lens of current society.
Some of the most important aspects of Brockmann’s plays are the motifs she uses. A Leurs Yeux will make frequent use of eyes, apertures, frames, glasses and photos in order to investigate perspective. She claims that her play will “challenge the notion that what we see is real or true simply because we see it.” According to Brockmann, “we only ever see a snapshot in time of a single view.” She believes that challenging this notion will create a world that is more open and accepting of others and inspire more diversity in the Hamilton community’s world view. Brockmann also tackles the themes of education, sleep, dreams, shadows and folklore, among others.
Associate Professor of Theater Mark Cryer, Brockmann’s academic advisor, is guiding her in her endeavor. Cryer is no stranger to advising Emerson Grant recipients, as Brockmann is his ninth Emerson advisee. He claims that self-motivated students like Brockmann make for the best advisees because it allows for the advisor to serve as a channel to help move the recipient’s thinking in new directions. For example, when Brockmann mentioned that she had made use of Russian folklore in her writing, Cryer offered to introduce her to African folklore that could help to further her ideas.
Brockmann has created her own major which she calls visual studies. This play is the first of three parts of her senior thesis. She’ll finish writing and editing the play this summer and rehearse and record the play this fall. A Leurs Yeux will be performed on March 7 and 8 in the Fillius Events Barn.
Danielle Brockmann is a graduate of Weddington High School (N.C.)