Student-Created Play ‘And You Are?’ To Debut at Manchester

Miriam Erbaugh

For Manchester University’s Victor Lee, his debut play “And You Are?” is not only the product of a decade-long passion for writing and directing but also a retelling of the experiences of both Lee and the people he cares about.

The play, which Lee described as a “coming-of-age story,” is being put on by the Manchester University (MU) Theatre Society and will premiere on campus near the end of April. The cast includes around 15 student actors and will be performed in Cordier Auditorium. Along with writing the play and composing the theme, Lee will be directing and playing the role of Duran, the protagonist.

“And You Are?” follows the main character Duran, played by Lee, as he navigates the uncertainties and changes that come with being in high school. “It’s about a young man finding his identity, or where to place his identity,” Lee explained. “Some people place their identity in things like clothes, fashion or whatever, but he (Duran) placed his in football. Then he has some circumstances that happen throughout the play leading him to realize that he and all he is is not just football, but other things outside of that. He starts to define himself in his relationships with his mom, and his girl and his friends—stuff like that.”

Lee’s interest in writing began when he was small, with his childhood love of superhero books and movies. “Me and my cousin, we would make comic books,” Lee said. “We were pretty serious about it too; we had at least 80 books made between the two of us. They would be like 50 to 60 pages each, and we couldn’t draw, so it would just be stick-figures. We were basically just copying whatever Marvel was doing.”

As he matured, Lee’s comic book hobby evolved into an interest in writing and directing. His aspirations were originally to work on films, but the play allowed him to express that same creativity while also exploring a different format. He spent the summer learning to play piano so that he could compose the theme, which is played by one of the characters at a pivotal moment, on the instrument he envisioned the song being performed on.

Acting as the main character is also uncharted territory. “The only theater I’ve ever done was marching band, where we would play and dance,” Lee said.

Lee, who is now a junior digital media studies major at MU, described some of the parallels between his protagonist’s journey and his own high school experiences. “I was a wrestler, I wasn’t a football player,” Lee explained. “I was a decent wrestler, and I had put my identity within wrestling. All I knew was wrestling, and all I was was wrestling. I would walk around high school and I wouldn’t pay attention in class. I would even have my stuff that I would wrestle in already on.”

During his senior year in high school, he was forced to reframe how he defined himself. “I missed weight at semi-state, so I couldn’t compete,” he said. “I was going to win semi-state and go on to state, but I couldn’t even compete.”

That moment, Lee recalled, was when he asked himself, “What else am I supposed to do now?” This question changed his approach to life and led him to become more deeply religious. “I took it (his identity) out of wrestling, and I put it into Christ—that’s where I believe everybody’s identity should be placed in. It should also be placed in the relationships around you.”

Looking ahead to the performances this spring, Lee cited the musical theme as being what he was most excited to see audiences’ reactions to. He explained that the theme shows up at an “integral part” in the play. The theme will also be featured in the Theatre Society’s Variety Show on Friday, March 10, as a preview for the play itself.

As for the play in its entirety, Lee’s passion for the project continues. “It’s something that’s really dear to me, and I’m excited about it,” he said. His hope is that the play will lead those in attendance to walk away considering where they place their identity. He wants audience members to walk away asking — “And You Are?”