Open scene: Maryville College, in a class room where students vigorously slave and toil over their works, scratching out ideas, stories—tragedies and comedies alike—onto the blank canvas of notebook paper that lies before them on the desk.
Is this the beginning of a magnanimously intriguing playwright that may readily thrill audiences to a theatrical climax of pure artistic ecstasy?
Well, that’s most likely improbable for this story, but as unlikely as it may seem, the dream of publishing the written work of some select students has become reality.
Five of the 12 students from Lisa Soland’s introduction to playwriting class, Leslie Owle, Joe McBrien, Emily Queen, Cameron Hite and Rachel Jarnagin, had their dreams realized April 6th and 7th in the Los Angeles showcase “Monoslam,” at the Secret Rose Theatre in North Hollywood, Calif. Monoslam accepts students’ works, which are then performed by professional actors.
In introduction to playwriting, a class consisting of 10 fulltime students and two non-credit students, Soland, an adjunct professor, requires her students to complete cover letters, adhere to the proper format for monologues and stage format in class.
Additionally, as part of their midterm, students must submit a complete work to a competition—a competition which they won and took by storm.
Soland, who was very proud of the success of her students, is a former colleague of the actors performing the plays in California. She helped in the creation of the casts for her students’ monologues.
Casts are important to bringing a piece to life, but according to Soland, “essentially the builders of the theatre community are the playwriters. It all begins with written word.”
“But what exactly is a playwright?” you may be wondering. “Wright” derives from the Old English wryhta meaning “to work,” which portrays the notion of building. The playwright is the person who writes the words of the play and provides rough outlines of staging directions. In many cases, a playwright may develop a whole story independently before seeking out a theatre in which to stage his or her production.
Essentially, yes, a playwright is someone who writes plays.
But this artistic form uses the entire human being as a medium through which to convey expression and direction. Playwrights utilize these ideas to connect audiences through words to the messages they portray.
Brought to life by student-actors here on campus, the students’ monologues will unfold on the Flux Family Theatre stage April 27th and 28th at 8 p.m. Known as “12x10x2” this monologue showcase will feature work from all students of the playwriting class.
These 12, 10-minute plays shown over two nights were also submitted to a competition in Port Jefferson, N.Y. called “Theatre 3”—the 16th annual festival of one act plays.
It should be mentioned, however, that arriving at the final product audiences will see was not necessarily an easy task.
“The nemisis of playwriting is a blank page,” Soland said. “The complication of playwriting is to verbalize the social consciousness of the community in which a playwright resides and to directly affect the lives of those people watching the story unfold. Ideally, if you go deep enough into the human condition, everyone will be able to identify with it—no matter where you live or who you are.”
A playwright who builds work for the theatre that communicates successfully with the audience is connected to a driving personal curiosity about the human experience within social systems.
The fiction is revealed in an expressive rather than descriptive manner which uses the unique language of the stage. In this sense, through the connection and enjoyment audiences may receive from the hard labor of playwriting, Soland’s students are able to give back to their community in one the most artistic ways possible: sharing their works.
“My mentor, Burt Reynolds, taught me the importance of giving back to the community and more importantly to turn around and seed inspiration and to give a hand to those behind you,” Soland said.
The principle of giving back to the community is one that Soland wishes to impress upon her class and, in turn, allow her students to impress upon their peers as well.
The award-winning work of these students is sure to inspire other aspiring playwrights behind them, for these students do indeed set the stage for playwriting at MC.