Justice for David Attias’ victims won’t end with a lengthy sentence from the court, but it may start with a monologue in Snidecor Hall.
Graduating senior drama and English major Sarah MacKay interviewed police officers, victims’ family members, friends of the killer, psychologists, EMTs and many others before she even set pen to paper on the most tender wound this campus nurses. The result is “Sidewalks and Better Lights” – a performance of nine monologues exploring grief’s individuality and healing process. It debuts Saturday at 8 p.m. as one of five dramatic arts honors projects.
MacKay was acting and studying in Oxford when Attias struck, “and I remember going through the list of my friends in my mind and thinking, ‘Oh God.’ I couldn’t believe it happened in Isla Vista because we all walk around on those streets – just the magnitude of it hit me,” she said.
Soon after, the Drama Dept. offered the ambitious MacKay a chance to pitch an honors project. She e-mailed her favorite voice instructor professor Michael Morgan with a prospectus.
“I thought it was an excellent idea,” said Morgan. “Obviously, it’s a very sensitive issue. It’s in the news now because the trial is ongoing, which – I don’t believe in accidents, but for whatever reason – coincided with her show.”
Morgan presented MacKay’s idea to a panel of drama faculty where it won approval, and she conducted extensive interviews over Fall and Winter Quarters.
“The people were wonderful. They were so supportive. I expected adverse reactions and they were just very honest people. I’m amazed by their strength and by the support,” she said. “It was incredible to hear their stories, and I feel very privileged for the opportunity I was given.”
MacKay condensed interviews and agglomerated facts until nine distinct voices appeared. She wrote the very rough draft over Christmas Break and the final draft by mid-February, though revisions have continued until last week. In addition to interviews and writing, she cast Edi Gathegi and Marc Shaw for five monologues while she took over the job of acting the four monologues written for women. MacKay also directed the piece, though she said Morgan helped immensely with an alternate perspective for the self-direction.
Morgan believes MacKay has the skills to pay the bills, and her work serves the community well.
“So much of theater tends to be about escape, entertainment and diversion. I don’t think that’s what this piece is about. Personally, the kind of theater I like is really about confronting issues and unearthing truths and I think that’s what direction this piece is moving,” Morgan said. “[Sarah] is a wonderful student, an exemplary human being, and has a real compassion for people. She also has a very strong ambition to succeed in the theatre and she has the talent and intelligence to make that happen.”
MacKay said “Sidewalks and Better Lights” is the best thing she’s done in college, as well as the most educational.
“It’s been a lot of work, but it’s been worth it,” she said. “I feel that it’s a good piece and I feel that I’ve gotten affirmation of that from different angles. I just hope that it comes across well and I do justice to this topic.”