Arts & Humanities

UGA Theatre students, alumnus develop original play

“Moving Forward” was written by UGA undergraduates and directed by Marlon Andrew Burnley. (Submitted photo)

UGA Theatre presents “Moving Forward,” written by UGA undergraduates and directed by Marlon Andrew Burnley.

Performances will be held in the Cellar Theatre on March 23-25 at 8 p.m. and March 26 at 2:30 p.m. Tickets are $12 or $8 for students and can be purchased at, by phone at 706-542-4400 or in person at the Performing Arts Center or the Tate Center box office.

“Moving Forward” is a wholly original work developed by a cast of University of Georgia theatre undergraduates alongside alumnus and director Burnley. The play follows Beni, the newest occupant of a mysterious afterlife, as they navigate their new environment while traveling along a liminal bus route. Beni engages with a myriad of characters whose stories inform their own, emphasizing that despite the loss and pain that sometimes characterizes life, the key to moving forward is focusing on the path ahead.

While typically producing existing works for its seasons, UGA Theatre is utilizing Burnley’s devised theatrical skills to develop a new work for the penultimate production of the 2022-2023 season. One of Burnley’s first forays into devised theatre saw the creation of his award-winning one-man show, “Black in the Box,” which was developed during his time as a graduate student at the University of Georgia.

In creating “Moving Forward,” Burnley sought to emphasize the collaborative nature of devised theatre by inviting the cast of the show to aid in the development of the show’s narrative.

“I really tried to view myself as a facilitator in the process, focusing on empowering the students to decide the direction of the show,” Burnley said. “Whether it was through writing prompts at the start of the rehearsal process or movement exercises, I wanted to try and nurture a space where everyone could share freely as we worked toward creating ‘Moving Forward.’”

“The experience of working on ‘Moving Forward’ is unlike any other that I have been part of during my time at UGA,” said stage manager and junior theatre major Alice Ware. “At the outset, everything felt very organic and free, but soon after, we had to become more focused due to needing a completed script. The pressure of not only being in a show but also creating the show set it apart from a typical, non-devised production. Marlon really allowed us to make the show our own while being a guide in regard to structure, characterization and theme.”

With themes that deal with difficult topics surrounding death, regret and abandonment, “Moving Forward” may not be suitable for younger audiences. But with its limited four-show run, UGA Theatre hopes that audiences will view “Moving Forward” as an opportunity to engage with these topics alongside the show’s cast and creators, extending the collaborative effort to the audience itself.