** This article was updated on April 5, 2019 following performances of Fraternal Forever and the April 5 issue of the Herald. **
March 8th and 9th the Phoenix Players presented their new play, Fraternal Forever, written and directed by Donovan Hayden and produced by the Phoenix Players. Countless others worked toward creating and putting the play out to be seen at HWS.
The cast consisted of Israel Oyedapo ’20, Kevin Lin ’20, Donaldo Reyes ’21, Jack Caniff ’22, and Josiah Bramble ’19 with Leela Willie ’22 stage managing. Kels Veeder, Niki Russell and Reed Herter were also involved in the production as Assistant Stage Manager, Set Designer and Lighting Designer respectively.
The Herald had the opportunity to meet with the writer and director of Fraternal Forever to discuss it more. Donovan Hayden ’19 is no stranger to theatre or the Phoenix Players: he was in the monologue showcase in winter 2017 and starred in the HWS Theatre mainstage production Etymology of Bird in spring 2017.
Speaking with Hayden, the Herald learned that the play “is a coming-of-age drama, in which four young college men try to find and express their manhood through pledging.” Hayden has been working on the play since the summer, when he first got the idea, and began writing the script in October. The story also has larger themes and ideas about brotherhood and identity in college.
The concept of fraternity pledging may be, for some, a reality they’re currently about to engage in, while for others it may be completely foreign. There are a number of students at Hobart who are part of fraternities, which students can join after their first year. The story of Fraternal Forever is about finding one’s self and identity through trials and tribulations as well as learning about others.
The story revolves around the pledges’ effort to show off and express their manhood, proving that they are part of the fraternity. Hayden also describes Fraternal Forever as being critical of fraternities but at the same time showing the genuine highs and lows, to make it not just a critique but also an honest look at fraternities.
Fraternal Forever focuses on the alluring ideals of fraternity, such as the popularity and social benefits one gets from being a brother. Fraternal Forever explores the relationships that are created from fraternities and the bonds of being a part of the brotherhood experience. Hayden notes that it is also going to explore how the fraternity structure can be a “safe place” for pledges and college students to build real relationships, define themselves, and deal with one’s own vulnerabilities.
Hayden himself was a member of a fraternity. He told the Herald that “after leaving a fraternity, I wanted to tell a story that was critical of frat culture but also reflected the good moments and benefits that attract so many young men. There is more to fraternities than brotherhood, parties and big houses. I wanted to delve into how fraternities and masculinity are intertwined. How can the hierarchy of a fraternity become a ‘safe space’ for young men to build relationships, define themselves, and deal with their own vulnerabilities? Fraternal Forever seeks to explore that.”
The way the play ends suggests everything the brothers go through to pledge may not have even been worth it at all. As the new brothers sing the anthem, sadly they’re confronted with the fears and weaknesses that still plague them. Ending on a bit of a sour note, the play wants the audience not to fall into the same trap of searching for that brotherhood the rushees also failed to find. Recognize that friendships with others whom you care about are what is most important at the end of the day — not the fraternity ideal, which may seem great but doesn’t match the reality.