Incubator: Poignant, Powerful and in Progress

By: Willy Nichter, Staff Writer

The Directing Lab in the Dorothy Young Center for the Arts is essentially a black box, with dark walls and seats lined up against the back wall. It has been a place for many an aspiring student playwright or director to stage a production, hoping to receive valuable feedback to help improve their work. And for those who want to see the results of that process, then Incubator, written by Angelle Whavers (’18), is the play to see.

Incubator, directed by Aliyah Kiesler (’18), is being produced as part of a Drew theater program that allows student playwrights to set up and perform in-progress plays in order to generate feedback and hear potential improvements.

“I had the idea for Incubator in my sophomore year of college,” said Whavers. “But I never had much of a plan to do anything with it. Then I took playwriting and decided to write it for the class.”

The play, which takes place in a dystopian future, centers around the staff and patients at a medical clinic designed for giving the Incubator Test, a test which calculates the societal value of an infant by taking a sample from the expecting mother, based on a variety of values.

The resulting value, measured as an Inque Number, is an essential part of a person’s identity in this future, and goes from one to ten. If the number is from one to three, the mother is suggested to abort, but abortion is not mandatory. From four to six, the parents have full control over what to do with their child. Numbers seven to ten, the child must be born, no matter the circumstances of the pregnancy.

The play’s writing is extremely solid, and despite its in-progress status, the world that Whavers has created is fantastically developed. The issues are pertinent and impactful, the emotions come across strongly and overall the play is quite strong.

“The idea came from modern day society,” said Whavers of the play’s inspiration. “It deals with issues like abortion and race in a literal way, and though it is a dystopian society it is very much our society.”

The play is minimally staged, featuring only a desk, an examination table, a tea brewer and assorted props, and the in-progress nature of the production means that the actors are reading from their scripts. However, that does not in any way affect the power of their performances, all of which are truly spectacular.

The cast of characters range from Dr. Irene, a doctor at the clinic and the play’s main character, to Jaxon, her new assistant, and a variety of expecting mothers, all of whom have different reactions to their test results.

“Irene is definitely one of the more complex characters I have played,” said Jordyn Smith (’21), who plays Dr. Irene. “At first, it was hard to play her authentically. After a few weeks of getting to know my character and build her personality I was able to play her as genuinely as possible.”

“Dr. Vaughn is great fun because I get to show the audience a slow descent of a once-great man,” said Caleb Smith (’21), who plays Dr. Vaughn, the developer of the Incubator Test, who is never shown but only heard through a tape recording of his only interview, listened to by Irene. “Vaughn was once very revered in the science community and to watch a giant like that fall apart is always striking.”

“I really enjoyed pushing myself to my limits during the emotionally charged portions of the show,” said Kiara Pettiway (’20), who plays Ashanti, an expecting mother who gets a shocking result when she visits the clinic to get her Incubator Test. “I found it very rewarding and I thought it came out great.”

The first performance of the show was on Monday, November 13 at 6:30 p.m., and its ending was followed by a session where Whavers, the playwright, asked questions of the audience, looking for ways to improve the show. The answers given ranged from suggestions on how to handle certain scenes or alter the order of events to general feedback regarding characters and their development.

“My only hope is that the feedback I get can help make Incubator a stronger play,” said Whavers about her hopes for the Tuesday night performance. “I am proud of the work I did but this is a show that handles a lot of things at once, and I want to make sure I get my point across. Good art is ever-changing and so is my script.”

And in that spirit, the second performance of Incubator will be altered from the version presented on Monday, taking into account the audience feedback. Regardless of how the changes manifest, the play’s essential message and power will remain intact, as the audience was extremely receptive to how the play was presented. While there is still work being done and work to be done, Incubator as shown on Monday is an impactful, relevant, well-acted and well-written play, that is likely to be the same for the next performance.

The second readthrough performance of Incubator will be held on Saturday, November 18, at 5 p.m. in the Directing Lab. Tickets are free, but seating is limited. To reserve a ticket, email the Kean Box Office at keanboxoffice@drew.edu.

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