Ask a typical UT student what their major is and common answers may include business, engineering and nursing.

However, junior Brock Ward is paving his own way at UT through the College Scholars program.

As a playwright and College Scholar, Ward is making his mark on campus and the Knoxville community with the creation of his play "Homebound: A Play for Nobody."

Casey Sams, director of undergraduate studies for theater and College Scholars advisor to Ward, said she is impressed with his recent accomplishments.

"His greatest strength and also his greatest weakness is that he wants to do everything," Sams said. "He has a limitless capacity to imagine different options or alternatives for himself."

Through his personalized interdisciplinary major, Ward is working on investigating what it means to create a character from both a performance and writing perspective.

"It involves not just creating fiction, but finding ways to base that fiction on what we know about human psychology," Sams said. "We can understand the characters as real people instead of just play-pretend."

Ward has tackled this concept through the creation of "Homebound" and the lead character, Nobody, who struggles with coming to terms with her mental illness; he said he compares this to his personal struggle with the discovery of his own illness.

"Something you'll see in 'Homebound' is that coming to terms with a mental illness doesn't necessarily mean accepting it," Ward said. "A lot of it is fighting it, so I was able to sort of fight back against what I was going through with 'Homebound.'

"It gave me a way to fight the problems I was having and provide a physical argument against the negative mindset that I was having."

After a successful staged reading for "Homebound" last year, Ward said numerous attendees in the Knoxville community were thankful for his work and the hope it gave them. Now, Ward's play will open for its first full production run this weekend.

"'Homebound' quickly grew to be something bigger than me," Ward said. "When you find out that words you typed up on a laptop and handed to some actors saved a kid's life and touched so many people, you can't really stop.

"There's a sense of duty."

Bridget Sellers, freshman in English, will perform the leading role of Nobody in the production.

"For me, it's a greatly humbling thing to have this opportunity," Sellers said. "I highly respect Brock as an artist and that he has entrusted this character to me is a great honor.

"I'm certain that this show will go a long way and speak to a lot of people, and that I get to be a part of it is so exciting."

Sellers believes that connecting herself to this character has been a therapeutic experience and has made her more emotionally sound.

"She's allowed me to open up to a part of myself I had previously closed off," Sellers said. "I feel stronger and more able to face my own issues with my self-image with her experiences at my back."

Ward said his work through the College Scholars program and a playwright has been an overall rewarding experience.

"Really, he's an inspiration," Sellers said. "He has a drive to write to help other people, which is something to be admired."

 

When: Feb. 7, 8, 14 and 15 at 8 p.m. and February 8, 9, 15 and 16 at 2:30 p.m.

Where: The Clarence Brown Lab Theatre

How much: Tickets are free for students and $5 for faculty and non-students.