he Etown New Playwrights Fest featured the work of nine students April 25 and 26 in Tempest Theatre. These young playwrights wrote 10 to 15 minute plays for their final projects in Associate Professor of English Dr. John Rohrkemper’s playwriting class last semester.
These plays were performed as staged readings, so the focus was on the text and work of the playwright. Each play lacked scenery and lighting, and there was little stage movement. The actors did not memorize the scripts; the scripts were placed in front of the actors during the performance. “The point of all this is to give the playwright’s words a voice,” Director of Theatre and Dance and Associate Professor of Theatre Michael Swanson said. “That’s always the goal.”
Thursday night showcased four students’ work, the first being “Mirror, Mirror” by senior Jenell Abram. Her play included four college-aged students, two women and two men, having conversations in their bathrooms about their date that evening. Both pairs are unsure of what will happen in the evening to come, but through a flash-forward the audience sees a man and woman talking in their bathroom as a married couple who reflect on their first date five years ago.
The second play was “The Cure” by sophomore Etownian Features Editor Kaitlin Koons. This play took place in a hypothetical world where a “cure” has been found for homosexuality. Five scenes illustrate how a pill is used to change people, starting with people having the option to take the pill until everyone is required to take it. These scenes start with a husband who chooses to take the pill because of his homosexual desires, and the play concluded with a mother wanting to protect her unborn child from the judgment of others. Swanson was the director of this play.
“Convenience” was the next play performed, written by senior Katie Pebley. This play takes place during the night shift at a gas station while the clerk interacts with three customers and his expecting girlfriend. “It has an ambiguous ending, so I just hope it makes people talk,” Pebley said.
The final play on Thursday was by sophomore Taylor Luckenbill, titled “The Problems With Love These Days.” Three scenes illustrate the confusion and miscommunication that love can cause. The scenes include a medieval knight trying to charm a girl in modern society, two naïve boys experiencing the craziness of the casinos in Las Vegas and a misinterpreted conversation between two girls at a restaurant. “I hope people will realize what a crazy, love-driven world we live in, and how love always seems to get skewed one way or another,” Luckenbill said. “Sometimes it’s really sad how that happens, but it’s a part of life.”
“Ducks on the Pond,” written by junior Andrew Herm, started off the performances for Friday night. The plot focuses on an argument between an older woman and her younger male partner in their living room. “The man, a Southern blue-collar, has grown desensitized to the physical aspect of their relationship,” Herm said. Herm wanted viewers to find his play humorous, but he also hoped that they would consider how important communication is between people, especially those in a relationship.
The second play for Friday was “Deep Diver,” written by junior Etownian Assistant Editor Allison Rohland. This play is “a subtle and elegant play about the burgeoning relationship of two unlikely individuals,” Rohrkemper said. Rohrkemper directed this play for the Fest and was very excited to be a part of its first production.
Following was “The Canoe in Jamaica,” by sophomore Lauren Cull. This play includes two best friends, Callum and Kent, who were complete opposites.
Junior Michael Wawrzynek’s play “Reflection,” performed fourth on Friday, focuses on a struggle between a father and son because of the son’s interest in theatre.
The final performance of the evening was “The Things I Could Forget” by senior Amy Schulze. Schulze’s play revolves around a girl, Marissa, who is trying to find her friend. Through this process, Marissa makes an astonishing discovery about herself and life. “I drew inspiration for the theme and plot of the play from my religious background growing up,” Schulze said.
“I had an extraordinary group of writers – theatre, creative writing and English students – in my playwriting class last semester,” Rohrkemper said. He encouraged his students to enter their plays in the Millersville University 10-Minute Play Contest. Koons, Abram and Herm won the top three awards in the contest, and their plays were performed in early April at Millersville.
The Etown New Playwrights Fest provided an opportunity for students to perform pieces written by their fellow students. Some playwrights even performed in or directed each other’s plays. “The festival is but one more expression of the vitality of the arts at Elizabethtown,” Rohrkemper said.