What was the inspiration behind your Senior Capstone, Lucy’s Play? Was there a particular teacher or class that influenced your passion in any way?
My original inspiration was Mr. Berry’s final assignment in his class Introduction to the Stage, the freshman introductory theater course. All students were asked to write a one-act play. I worked very hard on mine at home, but when it came time to read the plays in class, I refused to participate, completely embarrassed that my play was more serious and more personal than anyone else’s. Eventually, with some gentle encouragement, I let the class read mine, and I was surprised by the positive feedback it received. Mr. Berry pulled me aside afterward, explaining that the piece worked because it used conventions of time and space that were stage-specific as opposed to a short story or film. I considered myself somewhat of a skilled writer, but this experience felt like I had finally found my way into storytelling.
When it came time for me to write my Capstone, I knew I wanted to write a play about a family, attempting to marry both the humor and the seriousness wrapped up in every family’s story. I was also inspired by a movie that had recently come out, Little Miss Sunshine. In that movie, one of the scenes I loved was where the family has a total mess of a family dinner. It’s hilarious, and the dialogue is lightning fast, but what struck me the most was how universally relatable honest family conflict is. The reality of family life doesn’t look like a Christmas card or an Instagram post. To me, Lucy’s Play strives to paint a truthful picture of family love.
Did your Senior Capstone influence your college trajectory? What about your professional career?
Absolutely. Having the encouragement and opportunity to explore playwriting at Ensworth affirmed for me just how much I enjoy writing and collaborating with cast and crew for the stage. Being in the room for Lucy’s Play rehearsals during my senior year was an incredible, artistically fulfilling experience that is rare for young playwrights. After that, I knew I wanted more. The success of Lucy’s Play made me a more competitive candidate for better schools. I think Lucy’s Play was the differentiating factor that led to my admission to Middlebury College.
At Middlebury, I was able to take advantage of its tremendous writing and theater program and work with incredibly talented students and faculty. I was able to complete major projects as both a playwright and a director.
Since graduation, my focus has been on balancing the creative side of the entertainment industry with the business side. With each project I undertake, the learning experience continues. I moved to Austin, Texas and have worked with the film festival, the television festival, and in private theater. I have written, directed, and produced two one-act plays, one of which was awarded “Best of the Fest” for the 2019 Frontera Festival in Austin. My artistic career since graduating college has had its ups and downs, but every show results in a greater network of contacts and a widening array of opportunities. While some days are more successful than others, the positive response from the 2013 production of Lucy’s Play is a touchstone I often revisit for the confidence to move forward.
What was it like being back on campus with Lucy’s Play once more, this time in a teaching capacity, instead of a student?
It has been an amazing experience. I feel so lucky to be working with this cast. They are individually so smart, so hilarious, and just an incredible group of determined storytellers. Their feedback has been invaluable to me in making the play current. They have collaborated with me with such poise and advanced theatrical insight. I will never forget having a younger student, who is not even driving yet, tell me that I’m “playing it too safe” in one of my scenes. That kind of feedback is invaluable.
How did you incorporate experiential learning into your work with the Ensworth cast?
Mr. Berry and the students participating in the theatre program execute a unique form of experiential learning in every session. It’s not just about reading a play and learning the lines. Performing the play means inhabiting the text. The actors and stage crew must constantly make choices regarding character and context. It’s a unique opportunity to study metaphors and story arc from a personal perspective. What differentiates the experience of doing Lucy’s Play from something well known is that Lucy’s Play was a live text. Every sentence, every pause, every scene was up for debate. Mr. Berry and I made sure the students felt encouraged to give their opinions and feedback. Often, we would come into a rehearsal reading the new material back to back with the original draft, then ask the actors which version they liked better. Then, we would ask them to articulate why? Why are these words more effective? Why do these stage directions work better? Why is one version of a scene stronger than another? Lucy’s Play 2019 is definitely a collaborative effort. We made so many new discoveries and improvements. I am so grateful to have been a part of it.
Is there anything else you would like to add in regards to “experiential learning” and your time at Ensworth?
To me, the essence of experiential learning is what you learn from working collectively with a group of creative people. Some of my most valuable learning experiences at Ensworth occurred during rehearsals in the black box theater which taught me how to be a collaborator and how to be a contributing member of a working theatre company. It also solidified some very important friendships in my life. Plays are never just the work of one person. Ensworth taught me the value of being part of a community of artists.
What’s next on the horizon? Do you have a current project you’re particularly excited about?
I have a number of projects in various stages of development, some of which are still very much in the planning stages. One of these is a verbatim theatre piece that pulls from interviews with women from small Texas towns.
Most recently I stage-managed a new play called 100 Planes with Filigree Theatre in Austin, Texas. Next up is traveling with the production for their month-long run at the Sacred Fools Theater in Los Angeles.