features

An Interview with Academic Conference Presenter Christine McLaughlin ‘21

Bridget Flaherty ‘21

Features Editor

Last year, Christine McLaughlin ‘21 adapted a short story into a play for a course. Her resulting work, “The Toast,” was going to be presented at the Academic Conference last year. However, her presentation ended up being postponed as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and the ensuing campus shutdown. Fortunately, Christine was able to present the play at this year’s conference. I spoke to her about the adaptation process, the effects of a remote environment on the presentation, and how this project reflects her academic interests and overall experience as a Holy Cross student.

“The Toast” was adapted from a short story for an assignment that required students to transform a poem or a short story into a play. Christine chose to work with a short story, due to its narrative structure. However, despite her directing experience and the narrative inherent in the story, writing the play wasn’t without its challenges. Christine explained how she transformed the free indirect discourse style of the story into scenes and characters for the play. As an English major and theatre nerd, I found this all fascinating. I was particularly struck by the transformation of the narrator of the story into a character in the play, as well as the complications of figuring out transitions and stage directions.

Graphic design by Hui Li 21

Christine spoke to me about the different kinds of creativity that go into adapting an existent work. Some of the dialogue in the play is basically lifted right from the source material. However, some aspects of the story were nearly entirely created by Christine. For example, one poignant scene depicts an emotionally fraught memory for the protagonist and her sister and provides another layer of understanding of these characters and their relationship. The original story quickly references this moment, however Christine decided that this moment was necessary in her adaptation, therefore choosing to flesh out this memory and turn it into a scene in the play. This example showcases the relationship between the adapter and the source material, and the balance that one must strike between remaining faithful to the original material and bringing your own creative identity and style to the piece.

I asked Christine how she feels about presenting this play a year later, this time on the cusp of graduation. I wanted to know how this assignment relates to her larger academic experience and interests after four years at Holy Cross. It turns out that “The Toast” accurately represents Christine’s time here, as it allowed her to focus on her two major interests: theatre and creative writing. Despite engaging in both theatre productions and creative writing endeavors throughout her academic career, this adaptation marks the first time that she was able to combine these two interests into one piece. It’s heartwarming to see how much Christine has accomplished over her four years at Holy Cross and how she has been able to harness her own interests and unique perspective through her different experiences here. Her story is just one of many success stories that will be on display at the Academic Conference. 

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