Monica Furman is used to being busy. Last year, the Chapman University junior held two work-study positions, served on the board of CAST (the Coalition of Artistic Students in Theater), executed duties as the President of Cross the Line, and was a member of Sigma Iota Rho (for which she now serves as the VP of Marketing & Publicity). In this time, while also holding down a full course load, she helped research, develop, and write a play currently called The Drought Project.
To help fund the play, Monica came to the Office of Undergraduate Research and Creative Activity (OURCA) and applied for a grant. As a part of its commitment to scholarly, creative, and interdisciplinary work by students at Chapman University, OURCA invites proposals to the Undergraduate Student Scholarly Research & Creative Activity Grant program. These awards are intended to provide support for a variety of faculty-mentored scholarly or creative projects conducted by students. Monica’s play fit the bill.
The Drought Project emerged from the club Cross the Line, a group interested in activism and devised theater. The entire ensemble is involved the piece’s creation, from writing to choreography to Foley work to promoting the play to the public. Not only is the theater group truly communal, they’re also passionate about the world at large, as Cross the Line’s work always covers topics that the members feel need a stronger spotlight. For fairly obvious reasons to those of us watching the news and abiding by water use restrictions, the California drought got Monica’s attention.
Monica grew up in New York, where she started taking acting lessons at age eleven. Over the following six years, this transformed from a therapeutic activity to a hobby and then to a life goal. Monica became interested in activist theater when she was fifteen and auditioned for the theater company Girl Be Heard, which performs pieces with an intersectional feminist lens all over the world. Through this work, she was invited to the United Nations Girl Up Leadership Summit to perform in front of three hundred woman in Washington, DC, this past summer.
Monica used her OURCA grant for the development and research of her club’s play. It helped increase their budget eight-fold, and they were able to travel to farms in Fresno to soak in the effects of the drought in one of the places its most apparent. Monica was thankful for “the ability to see other communities outside of the OC and Chapman bubble.” The ultimate goal of this play is as an educational tool, to explain why people should care, especially in their local communities, and how they can help. “Being from out of state, it weirds me out that I’m more passionate about the drought than people who lived their whole lives in California,” Monica added. With OURCA’s help, Monica and Cross the Line were able to dig in and get real life experience they wouldn’t have been able to otherwise.
Monica says The Drought Project is indebted to Thomas Friedman’s book Hot, Flat, and Crowded and to his idea of global weirding—when extreme degrees of weather and natural occurrences run rampant, and natural cycles of flora and fauna are completely flipped. Monica is concerned that people will stop caring about the drought and believes the play to be especially significant as California approaches the one-year out-of-water timeline predicted by state officials.
Monica and her group will be presenting The Drought Project at the Milan Panic Amphitheater (right outside the Musco Center for the Arts) on November 7, 8, and 9 at 7:00 pm.
If you’re a student and would like to fund your own research or creative project, head over to OURCA’s site and learn about all of our funding opportunities!