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Student playwrights utilize workshops, group discussions to hone their craft

Ohio University’s Student Organization of Undergraduate Playwrights will be setting the scene of Chinese spies, fallen satellites and self-sacrifice for a reading of Looks and Hooks, a play written by OU student D.R. Baker, on Wednesday.

Baker, who is a junior studying playwriting and production design and technology, said he has been writing the piece off and on for about eight months.

The show’s storyline follows a woman named Casey, who has become the caretaker for her father, Mitchell. One evening when she returns home, a man named Sergeant Kyle breaks into the house. He claims that a Chinese spy satellite has crashed in the backyard, and that the house is now property of the U.S. government.

Baker said that it’s hard to say what inspired the play, but it took a change of scenery to finally finish the piece.

“I barely touched the piece for a few months after that first night of writing 12 or so pages, then finished it at the beginning of the summer when I went to visit my parents in Las Vegas,” he said. “Vegas is an absurd place, and put me in an absurd mood, so I opened the play back up and finished it in a few hours.”

While the show might have its silly moments, Baker said that he hopes the audience learns a bigger message from seeing his show.

“I hope people leave the reading wondering about the weight of the choices we make, particularly those concerning self-sacrifice,” he said. “How far is too far to protect someone we love? Should we feel guilty when we abandon someone in order to make things better for ourselves?”

The reading is one of many that SOUP sponsors throughout the year. The group, which was founded in 2007 by 11 undergraduate playwrights in the BFA playwriting program, was created to give a voice to new playwrights in the Athens area, said Anthony Kochensparger, a junior studying playwriting.

“The Student Organization of Undergraduate Playwrights is a vehicle for new play development in Athens,” he said. “It is the intention of this group to bring an organized approach to workshopping, developing and producing the work of these dramatists.”

Members of SOUP collaborate each week and help contribute to each other’s writing. When the scripts are completed, the writers present a public reading of the show followed by an evaluation by others in the group.

Sara Swartout, a junior studying playwriting and French, said that the group provides a good experience for actors, playwrights and audience members.

“We want to share our words and for others to share their thoughts with us,” she said. “At our workshops, we bring in what we’re working on, get actors to perform it and have a discussion and feedback session after with whomever is interested.”

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