‘Expect to be uncomfortable’: ‘The Sympathy Play’ to bring Emerson audiences a fresh look on theater as they know it

By Sophia Pargas, Editor-in-Chief

While “The Sympathy Play” began as a final project for one student’s playwriting class, it will soon jump from within the classroom to upon the stage of the SPC Theatre. 

On Feb. 25 and 26, RareWorks Theatre Company will put on “The Sympathy Play,” written by and starring senior comedic arts major Scott Herrera. The production follows the story of Truman, a failed child star, as he struggles with his family, identity, and past, culminating in “an acid trip to heal [his] inner child,” reads a statement from RareWorks. 

When it originally began drafting in fall 2022, the idea behind the play was far from what it is today. 

“It started off as a one-person show with an unreliable narrator, but as I began writing it, I realized that it needed more people,” Herrera said. “It shifted from a one person show to an ensemble show.” 

As the writing process progressed, however, the story slowly but surely began to reveal itself, and a more complete version developed. 

“The hardest part was doing it and being proud of it and knowing how to transcribe what I was thinking onto the page,” Herrera said. “But then my favorite part was [when] I realized that Truman was going to be a failed child pageant star, because that just gave me so much to play with and to pull from writing wise.” 

While the semester-long course came to an end, the play was far from finished. After continuing to edit the play script on his own, Herrera sought out a place to see his work come to life. 

“I pitched it to different student organizations on campus with a rough draft,” he said. “And the [organization] RareWorks picked it up and is now producing it. Once it got picked up, which was in January, I did more edits to get to the version that it is now.” 

As the play became a reality, it gained a new and unexpected director: junior visual media arts major Iain Alvidrez. 

“I’m thankful to Scotty for bringing me on as the director of the show,” he said. “It’s been very strange and new, and I’ve been learning a lot through this whole process. As a VMA major, I’m not really acquainted with how student theater operates. I’ve been leaning on my theater peers who are more experienced in this area.” 

After undergoing common auditions and officially casting the show, the rehearsal process finally began and the show gradually came to life. 

“It’s really fun to collaborate with really talented actors that we’re so lucky to have in the show,” Alvidrez said. “There’s just an innate talent that the cast carry with them that creates something really awesome. That’s been the most fulfilling thing—seeing where these amazing actors take my little directions and how much fun it can be.” 

Unlike most plays, “The Sympathy Play” has had just under two months to prepare for their run, making this weekend’s production that much more invigorating. After a year and a half of working on the piece, Herrera said he is looking forward to sharing his play with the greater community. 

“My biggest hopes are that people will love it as much as I do and embrace this world and the story that I’m telling, as well as maybe see themselves in each of the characters,” Herrera said. “I’m very excited for people to see it.”

When leaving the theater, the director hopes that the audience will bring with them not just a storyline, but a feeling. 

“This world is crazy as shit,” Alvidrez said. “I hope at the end of the show, [the audience feels] complicit in what the characters have done throughout the play. I hope there’s some sort of discomfort in the audience, and I hope that spurs something.”

With two days left to reserve tickets for the show, its creator offers a promise for those willing to get out of their comfort zone. 

“You’ve never seen anything like this,” Herrera said. “You’ll never see anything like this again.”