Drama Branches Out with Independent Playhouse

By Ji Kim
Elm Staff Writer

On April 4, the Independent Playhouse proudly presented its first production “Cross-Pollination,” a one-act play written by senior Rob Wilson and directed by sophomore Andrea Clarke.

Sophomore Phaedra Scott, the club’s artistic director, said that the idea for the Independent Playhouse started around the end of last year when she had noticed that many of her peers were interested in writing or directing plays but did not have any opportunity to do so because they were not drama majors.

“I thought that this was unfair and I started drafting ideas for a theater group that was able to produce, direct, and write entirely student-[driven] productions,” said Scott.

Scott talked with Associate Professor of Drama Michele Volansky about the idea for a theater group. Volansky, the club’s adviser, said the Independent Playhouse was based on Play-Pen, a playwrights’ workshop in Philidelphia.

Scott assembled her club officers. Together they refined the club, and, this spring they were officially recognized as a Washington College club.
“[The club] offered me an opportunity that I didn’t see available elsewhere: to have a play I wrote actually performed,” Wilson said. “Not only was it a huge rush to see it happen, it’s an extremely valuable experience.”

“Talking with student producers and directors who are working from my writing, getting feedback on what aspects of my script work or don’t work from a production standpoint, seeing how the lines I wrote are interpreted by actors on the stage– all of those are more directly relevant to my career goals than half the classes I’ve taken here,” he said.

Clarke was also enthusiastic about the opportunities the club presented.
“I wanted to broaden my opportunities to participate in theater,” she said. “I volunteered to direct the club’s first performance because I wanted to have more responsibility and see if I could produce a solid product without teacher supervision. I just got into directing this year so I also saw ‘Cross-Pollination’ as a way of testing if this is something I want to keep doing.”

With 130 audience members for its first performance, “Cross Pollination” was a definite success. Producing an independent play was not without its bumps in the road, however.

“We are really starting from scratch and sometimes communication gets a little muddled,” Scott said.

According to Scott, some of the biggest challenges involved reserving Norman James Theater and advertising around campus.

As the club’s first director, Clarke said she faced obstacles during the rehearsal process as well.

“My play was kind of the ‘guinea pig’ for Independent Playhouse since we were its first performance, so I knew there was bound to be a few challenges,” she said. “I definitely was not prepared for the amount of red tape I had to cut through to get some of the crucial stuff done.”
The final product made all the challenges worthwhile.

“[Independent Playhouse] created the junior varsity team for the Drama Department,” Wilson said. “The Independent Playhouse gives everyone a halfway step between class work and a thesis production. Especially with the Drama department (and the school in general) growing so quickly these days, that’s insanely worthwhile.”

“It’s really cool to have everyone come together for something that they enjoy,” said sophomore Carissa Marcelle, one of three actors in “Cross Pollination.” “There’s a certain pressure to do well but not senior thesis pressure. You’re doing it because you love it and not for a class or anything.”

As for the future, Scott said that the Independent Playhouse has opened up a partnership with the Mainstay in Rock Hall so that one of the plays will be performed at a different venue.

Also, the club will present a one-act festival next year in addition to regular productions.

All of the playwrights get their scripts professionally bound and stored for the Independent Playhouse archives, according to Scott.

“I would do it all over again in a heartbeat,” Clarke said. “Working with my cast and stage manager was a delight and I looked forward to every rehearsal. Sitting in the audience opening night and hearing everyone giggle and whisper throughout the performance was such a great feeling and something I want to experience again.”

“With overwhelmingly positive reviews, it made all of the club members realize why we do theater,” Scott said. “There’s a huge amount of support for the club from people who are not even officially club members, but it takes more than a few people to create a theater.”

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