Hilltops
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The View From Oyaron Hill

Playwright David Hansen Attends Senior Thesis Production I Hate This

11.10.15

Nathan Skethway

Senior Theatre Arts major Brian Cook celebrated the performance of his senior thesis production, I Hate This: A Play Without the Baby, this past weekend, with shows on Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. Friday night’s sold-out show held a particularly special surprise: it was attended by the play’s author, David Hansen.


Cook’s working relationship with Hansen began last year, while Cook was on the hunt for a one-man show to mount for his thesis project. He stumbled upon I Hate This, became interested, and soon established contact with the playwright himself. Through a series of emails, Cook gained Hansen’s approval to perform the play royalty-free, as well as found insight into the man behind the character he was planning to portray.


I Hate This is an hour-long autobiographical piece which tells the story of a man (Hansen) and his wife in the year after they lose their baby to stillbirth. Hansen originally performed the piece himself, with productions at the Cleveland Public Theatre, the Minnesota Fringe Festival, the New York Fringe Festival, and many others.


Cook’s production is the first fully-mounted staging of the play in the United States to star an actor other than Hansen. His production concept played on the fact that I Hate This was born from Hansen’s habit of journaling – as a result, the set was largely made from scattered pieces of paper, forming a timeline of events, before and after the stillbirth.


Director of Theatre Arts Ken Golden reached out to Hansen and invited him to the production – an honor that Cook was not expecting. “Before my six o’clock call, I was sitting with my family in Simply Thai,” said Cook. “I noticed my professor enter, followed by a man. I can’t imagine what my initial reaction looked like, but I remember freezing, turning to my family, and saying, ‘Guys, this is David Hansen.’”


Hansen attended the sold-out Friday night performance, and afterwards took the stage briefly to thank Cook for telling the story of his late son, Calvin. Later, the two enjoyed a long conversation about the play over drinks at Roots Brewing Company, accompanied by the show’s production team, Golden, and a few friends.


I Hate This: A Play Without the Baby was performed in the Lab Theatre in Bresee Hall, and was directed and performed by Brian Cook ’16; as a part of his thesis project, he also designed the set, lights, projections, and his costume. The show was stage managed and assistant directed by Joanna Carber ‘16, and featured an original score composed by Nathan Skethway ’16.


“I cannot thank [David] enough for supporting me in adapting Calvin’s story, but also for making the long trek to support me in person,” says Cook. “It meant the world to have you there and hear your thoughts. The whole night was a shock, a blur, and beautiful.”