Playwrights Workshop has just concluded with its final performances of five plays written, directed, and acted by Knox students.
Junior Kelsey Ingle directed Nate Hults’s play, Crazy Eyes for the playwright’s workshop. This is Ingle’s fourth time directing for playwright’s workshop. “It is an exercise in compromise,” said Ingle. She makes sure to keep the play and playwright in mind because she believes the workshop exists to help the playwright. She said it is different than a normal rehearsal process because the script is always changing. “Being flexible is the most important part of working on a project like this,” said Ingle. She feels playwright’s workshop brings casts together more than a main stage play because all have a hand in the final production. Ingle said, “Nate’s play was a comedy: he wrote the jokes, I got to stage them, and the actors got to deliver them. That kind of collaboration leads to a real sense of teamwork when an audience laughs!” Ingle is glad that playwright’s workshop is becoming a more appreciated part of Knox.
Shut Up, Marv!
Senior Kristen Chmielewski wrote Shut Up, Marv! last term for an independent study, and it was performed during playwright’s workshop. Chmielewski had a lot of frustration when working on her play last term. She was unhappy with how some of the character relationships were playing out and some of the characteristics in general. She knew she was probably overcritical and thought playwright’s workshop would make her play better. Chmielewski feels the combination of distance from the play and playwright’s workshop was really beneficial. “I was able to gauge what in the script absolutely didn’t work as well as what did work, based on how everything sounded to me and on the audience’s reaction,” said Chmielewski. She was upset that Rep Term prevented her from too much involvement in Shut Up, Marv!, but she “was more than happy leaving my script in Woodruff’s wonderfully capable hands, and I really appreciated all of the work she and the actors put into performing my script,” said Chmielewski.
Senior Cami Woodruff directed Kristen Chmielewski’s play, “Shut Up, Marv!” for playwright’s workshop. “I’ve never directed any play before, let alone a student-written one, so it was a new experience for me all around,” said Woodruff. She really liked having Chmielewski to clarify parts of the play and reassure her. “It was nice having the validation of being told you’re doing it right (or being corrected) by the person who wrote it,” said Woodruff. Woodruff said that Chmielewski’s writing made visualizing the story arc easy. “It was a pleasure to direct,” said Woodruff.
Hush, written by Caroline Castro was directed by senior Meredith Noseworthy. “I’ve not directed student-written plays before,” said Noseworthy, “though the first show I directed at Knox (two winters ago) was a play that had been written by a student of another school, and had won a playwrighting award.”
Noseworthy continued to discuss how she planned to treat Hush as a finished work, particularly because it had already been published in Catch and submitted to a contest, “My actors and I took it at face value, and only rarely asked even for changes in syntax of lines, and that was the most major change to the play that we requested. I felt that at this point, the most beneficial thing for Caroline’s play was for it to be performed as it was…. I think we showed that it was already at the level where it was structurally sound enough to be performed as it’s written now.”
Whatever Happened to Tuesdays?
Whatever Happened to Tuesdays? was written by freshman Toby Santerelli. “When I wrote the play, I was actually in Middle School, and it took a decent amount of re-working to get it stage-ready,” he said about the writing process.
Josh Gunter directed Whatever Happened to Tuesdays? It was Gunter’s first time directing a student play. “Actually, my first time directing a play, period,” said Gunter. “It felt good knowing that the end result of our work during the term, the performance, would help Toby in revisions of the play and help him grow as a playwright.”
Gunter continued to discuss this term’s Playwright’s Workshop, “Usually, the workshops are pretty basic. This term, however, the Workshop exploded into this wonderful, gigantic thing. We usually don’t use lights, props, or furniture. And, in the past, one or two rehearsals before a performance was standard. This term, we rehearsed for about eight weeks before performing.”
Senior Cindy Reiter directed sophomore Bess Cooley’s play Bub for playwright’s workshop. This was her first student-written play she has directed at Knox. Two years ago, Reiter directed a bare main stage play. She wrote and directed a play in high school, but this was her first foray into directing a peer-written play. She really enjoyed the experience because working with the playwright helped her look at a perspective different from her’s. “It was interesting to see the ways our interpretations of the play varied, and how both of us could be right,” said Reiter. She loved how her and Cooley’s visions meshed. Even when they were different the discussions brought new ideas to the table. Reiter said, “As opposed to a normal directing experience, part of the process of rehearsals was examining the script and seeing which parts worked successfully or not in a 3D setting.” The actors helped contribute changes in the script based on what they felt from the characters they stepped into. “The script, in that sense, was alive, as it was able to adapt and mold to fit the direction we wanted to see it go,” said Reiter. She feels it was a collaborative effort to turn a stationary script into a moving production. Reiter said, “Some of our best ideas were ones we came to by bouncing thoughts off of one another and building on them together.”
Cooley wrote Bub. She worked closely with Rieter in creating the script. “Once I had gotten the script to a certain place I wanted to let it fly on its own, which was actually terrifying, because you’ve created something and made it yours, and then you just have to hand it over and say, ‘well, here it is — do something with it,’ But I had heard great things about Cindy’s experience in directing, and I had some faith in the script. She and the actors gave me some feedback toward the beginning of the rehearsal process and I changed the script around a little.”
Cooley said that she wants to expand the play in the future. “Seeing things outside your own head, from the director’s perspective, is telling. And I think the reason I didn’t want to mess with the play too much beyond the physical script itself (I only saw the play once, at the performance) was because I wanted to see how much it could get done on its own,” said Cooley.