The annual Ohio University Seabury Quinn, Jr. Playwrights’ Festival, held at the end of spring semester, represents the culmination of the writing, workshopping and rehearsing done by students enrolled in the OU Masters of Fine Arts playwriting program.
This year, nine playwrights will present their works at the festival. The first-year playwrights will show work in the form of rehearsed sit-down readings, while the second-year playwrights’ readings will include a bit more production and rehearsal time. The three third-year playwrights will each have a full production that will be performed over two weekends.
Katherine Varga, a graduate student studying playwriting, is looking to share her play Sunny Days with an audience.
Varga’s dark-comedy production is about a teenage girl who creates a fandom website for her celebrity crush, who happens to be a serial killer. The main character hopes to meet up with the serial killer, and meanwhile, her mom’s girlfriend has just moved in with them. With everything going on in the girl’s home life, she uses the fandom website as an outlet to communicate her frustrations.
“Something notable about the play is every time she communicates with somebody online, it’s represented through sock puppets,” Varga said.
Varga has always been fascinated with puppetry. She’s most interested in how a puppet is controlled by an actor or person, but oftentimes seems to take on a life of its own.
“I think it’s a really interesting metaphor for the way our online persona exists in the world,” she said. “You forget about the person behind the avatar, so a lot of the play is about who we think we’re talking to online, and what we project onto them based on limited information we have about them.”
Vagra is ready to share with an audience the collaborative nature her cast has brought to her play that she would have never thought of herself.
“I want my audience to think how to use the internet a little more critically, and maybe question celebrity culture,” Vagra said. “I also think it’s a call-your-mom-type play, so after, I think they’ll just wanna call someone they love and tell them they appreciate them.”
Inna Tsyrlin, a graduate student studying playwriting, will also showcase her full production play Stitched with a Sickle and a Hammer. Tsyrlin was awarded a Student Enhancement Award grant that enabled her to travel to Moscow to research for her production.
Set in 1944, Aleksandra, a political prisoner, is approaching the end of her sentence in a hard labor camp. While at the camp, she’s also part of a theater troupe that is tasked with performing in front of a special delegation who happens to be the American vice president.
“Aleksandra has to decide if she is going to participate in the charade, or she has to decide if she is going to let the vice president know that she’s a political prisoner and that it’s all a show put on for him,” Tsyrlin said.
Tsyrlin was inspired by the theatrical premise of deceiving someone by creating a fake town and wanted to write about something close to home since she herself is from Russia. It’s a play she hopes educates and opens people’s eyes to American-Russian relations and the idea of confinement camps.
Tsyrlin is excited to share her play and hopes the audience is left with questions they’ll be dying to go home and search on Google.
“I hope that even though it’s based on a historic event, that I’m portraying a possibility of what could’ve happened, or what I would have liked to have happened,” Tsyrlin said. “I think the wonderful thing about theater is that it raises lots of questions. A play can provide some answers, but not all answers.”
Trip Venturella, a graduate student studying playwriting, will present his fully produced play alongside Vagra and Tsyrlin as well.
Sibyl is grounded in the idea that when one is young, they have an idea of what a perfect relationship looks like. The main character has found the seemingly perfect relationship, but the relationship isn’t exactly what it seems, and the truth shakes the foundations of his reality.
“If my play is making a statement, it’s that to establish real relationships, you sort of need to get the idea of what a perfect relationship is out of your head and figure out what’s really a value to you,” Venturella said.
Ventrella is looking forward to sharing his play with an audience, but it’s also a nerve-wracking feeling for it to finally be shared with others.
“As a playwright, you want to put something that is true on stage. You’re putting part of yourself in front of a lot of people, so that part is very scary,” Venturella said. “I don’t want to say you should take away this or that, I just hope the audience forms their own opinions and views of my play.”