A New Theater Experience for UMPI

When you think of live theater, what comes to mind? Many people think of actors putting on a great show. But many people do not think of the playwrights. These are the people who make plays possible. They write a script and revise it many times. Then they work with the actors and director to create a great performance.

Now imagine writing and staging a 10-minute play? Sounds impossible, right? Think again. Thanks to UMPI student Darci Faye, many students have gotten to try something different. They have all written a play. On Friday, March 18, and Saturday, March 19, people at Wieden Hall will get to see nine 10-minute plays that these students wrote. This will be UMPI’s first playwriting festival.

Faye is the brains behind the festival. She is the president of UMPI’s drama club. She revived the club last year to bring more live theater to campus. Last fall, she got to stage one of her own plays. Now Faye is taking her mission one step further.

Faye is a criminal justice major at UMPI. She is also a playwright. Before coming to UMPI, Faye lived in New York City. She attended playwriting classes at the Einhorn School of Performing Arts. The school held classes for 10-week sessions. Teachers gave all students a writing prompt. Then they wrote a 10-minute play from their prompt. Students who had plays accepted into the festival got to cast their plays. They even worked with a director.

“I never had anything accepted. But I watched a few of the plays,” Faye said. “It’s such a really cool experience to get everyone together like that to collaborate.”

Now that playwriting experience is coming to UMPI. Student actors will perform in the nine 10-minute plays each night. Seven of the playwrights are students in Anthony Scott’s composition class at UMPI. Faye is writing a play as well. The other writer is not an UMPI student.

For several weeks, Faye set due dates for students’ first few drafts. Then she met with each of them and gave feedback. Later on, the students met with one another and workshopped their plays. They got feedback from everyone. Faye said that workshopping is an important part of writing a play.

“They get to hear their play read instead of just reading it on a computer,” Faye said. “It’s always different when you add actors to it. You get to hear reactions, like if a line gets laughs or if it doesn’t.”

On that same day, they held auditions for actors. The writers got to choose what actors they wanted for their own play. For the past two weeks, each student has been working hard on rehearsals for each play. They have gotten to see their work performed onstage. This gives them a chance to see what scenes work and which scenes don’t work.

Faye thinks that learning to collaborate with people is a crucial part of theater. She is glad that the students have the chance to see their work go from the page to the stage.

“For them to jump right in and just write a play is a big deal. They’re not just watching theater. They’re creating it,” Faye said. “When you see the characters, you could see them come alive. You could see those little nuances that you may not have been able to see when you were writing them.”

Lea Allen, assistant professor of English at UMPI, is the drama club’s academic advisor. She said that Faye has done much of the planning for the playwriting festival. But she thinks it is great that Faye is bringing theater to a new group of people. Playwriting gives the students a great way to learn how to write for an audience, she said.

“In regular English classes, students often don’t understand that they’re writing for an audience. They think they’re just writing for their professor,” Allen said. “I think writing a play and getting live feedback gives them more awareness of writing for an audience. It gives them a greater sense of accomplishment.”

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That audience, Faye said, will also benefit from watching the students’ plays. They get a great chance to watch live theater. Faye encourages UMPI students to come to the festival. They can support their peers and see what they have been able to accomplish.

“I’m hoping that when students come, they’ll realize that their peers wrote these plays,” Faye said. “They’re not professional plays that we picked out of a catalogue. These are plays that we all worked on together.”

Faye hopes the playwriting festival will become a new UMPI tradition. She is graduating in December and wants theater to still be a major part of the campus. But right now she is happy to show people what it takes to write and produce a play.

“Theater is definitely not something you could do alone. You need people behind you,” Faye said. “Last semester I staged my play here. It’s a really cool experience to watch it go from the paper to being workshopped and getting on its feet. I wanted to share something like that.”

Playwriting is not easy. Writers need to put in a lot of time and effort. But they can’t do it alone. With the help of a great cast and director, playwrights can give audience members experiences that they won’t easily forget. That is what people at UMPI have a chance to see on March 18 and 19. They won’t just be watching plays. They’ll see the end result of a creative team of UMPI students. It may even inspire them to create something great in their own lives.