THE SEANCE, by Dylan Waite

Bad PennySonoma State University Spring 2013
by Celine Delcayre, SSU Theatre Arts Major; The Seance Dramaturg

Program Notes and Study Guide

  1. Synopsis by Celine Delcayre
    Alex, a college student from Oregon, has recently lost a close friend who shares the same name. Feeling the loss of her friend and unsure of the depth and meaning of their relationship, Alex ventures from Oregon to Fresno, California, to attend Alex’s funeral. However, when she arrives, she finds that a disastrous drought has postponed the funeral and is driving the residents of Fresno crazy. Stuck in Fresno with the deceased Alex’s circle of friends, our protagonist Alex meets: Bryan, an overly mothering host; Teddy, an eccentric intellectual; Devon, full of anger and expletives; Katie, a good girl who likes crafts a bit too much; and Rachel, who claims to be the reincarnation of a seventeenth-century princess. As the drought intensifies and the funeral continues to be postponed, Alex becomes increasingly desperate to find connection, leading to a strange rooftop ceremony with this new circle of misfits she has discovered. In the end, Alex finds a strange sort of equilibrium and companionship in Fresno, as the drought finally breaks and the extreme behavior of its citizens finally returns to a strange kind of normalcy
  2. Discussion Questions by Celine Delcayre

    1. Is the rooftop séance ceremony real? That is, does it seem to you that Rachel is truly channeling the spirit of the departed Alex? Or is Rachel a phony? If so, why do you think she would choose to deceive our protagonist Alex?

    2. In the various monologues where the characters speak directly to the audience, they describe how the drought has driven the citizens of Fresno to bizarre and violent behavior. How do you think the drought has affected the characters in the play? How has it changed their behavior?

    3. What is your impression of Fresno? Why do the characters in the play choose to stay there?

    4. What do you think Alex is searching for when the play begins? Do you think she finds it by the end of the play?

  3. Interview with the Playwright by Celine Delcayre
    An interview with Séance playwright, Dylan Waite.
  4. Lost in the Valley of Excess by John Gibler
    The Séance is set in the middle of a horrific drought in Fresno, California. This article talks about the relationship between water and the workers and people of California’s Central Valley
  5. The Big Thirst by Elizabeth Schilling
    A look at some of the larger management water problems in California.
  6. “Fresno neighbors had a long history of disputes leading up to a murder-suicide”from Fresno Bee
    The Séance explores how extreme behavior and social tension can erupt when water becomes scarce. Tensions run high in Fresno…is this an isolated incident, or the symptom of a bigger problem?
  7. “Do hairworms manipulate the water seeking behaviour of their terrestrial host”? By multiple authors
    Rachel, a pivotal character in The Séance, tells the audience about unusual parasites that can drive their hosts to drown themselves. This study looks at a particular parasite, the hairworm or Gordian worm, and the strange ways in which it manipulates its host.