From Feb. 21-24, seven St. Mary’s College of Maryland (SMCM) students in Dr. Amy Steiger’s Fall 2018 Playwriting class are showcasing their short plays in “Humanizing Histories: 7 Short Plays about Resistance.” These plays will be directed by the student playwrights and performed by student actors in the theater department.
This is Steiger’s fourth year teaching at SMCM, and she is credited with directing three previous plays. She is excited for the community to see what her students have been working on since the fall semester. She explained, “I directed Sophie Treadwell’s “Machinal” my first year, Sarah Ruhl’s “Eurydice” my second year and the student devised/written play called “Beyond the Sunset” last year.”
Steiger’s playwriting class collaborated with Christine Wooley, Ph.D.’s pilot program, cross-listed Art History and English class “Representations of Slavery, Emancipation, and Resistance,” which was co-taught by Dr. Joe Lucchesi. Students in the Art History and English class were tasked with presenting an artifact to the playwriting class to be used as inspiration for the playwrights for the production of their plays.
Each of the eleven students in Steiger’s class was assigned with the task of drafting a play centered around the themes of resistance, which were prominent in the artifact presentations. The plays were then reviewed by various faculty and students on campus, including some of the students in the Art History/English class. Reviewers were then given a link to vote on their favorite seven plays.
The playwrights and plays include: Allison Claggett (“Union”), Rebecca Weber (“Silence Too Loud”), Samantha Reed (“Speak for Me No More”), Oli Platt (“Hashtagivism”), Cameron Kelley (“Heaven Spots”), McKenna Johnson (“Extended Metaphors for Having Conversations Surrounding Race”) and Tiye Young (“Faith”).
Blake Johnson, Rebecca Weber and Kori Taber accompany Steiger in directing the student plays. There is also collaboration amongst the playwrights, as some of the student directors perform in their peers’ plays.
Oli Platt (‘20) sought inspiration from an abstract painting of the 1965 march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama, producing “Hashtagivism.” Platt remarked, “I am not going to lie, I was actually very scared for this assignment. Coming from a position of privilege, I don’t necessarily have the say for what is or is not racist. I was really worried about that and I have to thank [McKenna Johnson] for talking about why it’s important to join in the conversation–regardless of my privilege.”
Platt’s “Hashtagivism” is not meant to take place in any specific time period, and sends the message that history has a tendency to repeat itself. “It is meant to be set in the present, while also remaining timeless,” explained Platt.
Aside from pertaining to the theme of resistance, the only other requirements were that the play had to be ten minutes in length and had to include an artifact of inspiration. Samantha Reed (‘20) mentioned, “[Steiger] let us have a lot of creative freedom with our pieces, which was really relieving as I was definitely worried about restrictions stunting my creative process.” Reed’s “Speak for Me No More” is centered around forgotten histories and the notion that winners are always the ones who get to tell the story. Reed mentioned that her play is “set in a sort of dystopian liminal space, where the past bleeds into the present and the exact ‘time’ does not really matter, it’s always been the same, so what does the exact time matter?”
Steiger encourages SMCM students to come out from Feb. 20-24 to see the plays stating that “they will see some really outstanding work by student writers, actors, directors and designers – the plays are moving, funny, challenging, and inspiring. These folks have created something I think is pretty remarkable, they’ve built it from the ground up, and they raise questions that feel urgent right now.”
This play festival is a great way to see works written, produced, directed and acted by SMCM students. Steiger and her students have been working tirelessly since the fall semester to write, direct, and perform these plays which center around resistance: a theme which was prominent in the nation’s history, and one that remains prominent in the society of today. These plays will be performed in the Bruce Davis Theater. Tickets are free for SMCM students on Thursday, Feb. 21, and they simply have to email email@example.com to reserve their seats. The cost from Feb. 22-24 is $4 for students and $6 for general admission.