Student Perspectives: The Curtain Opens on MIHS Drama’s 2022 Playwriting Project

Photo+Courtesy+MIHS+Drama

Photo Courtesy MIHS Drama

Kat Marsh, Kyle Gerstel, and Lilly Jester

Overview: Kat Marsh

The MIHS Drama department put on their 9th annual Playwriting Project on March 29, featuring five short plays created from scratch by members of the MIHS Drama 2 class.

Each year, every Drama 2 student has the opportunity to learn the basics of playwriting from a professional playwright and submit an application to be a playwright. Some students apply to act, and many apply to write a play. From there, the playwriting artist reads through the applications and narrows them down. The number of playwrights depends on the year and size of the class. 

This year, five students wrote original 15-minute plays. Playwrights Brielle Gradek, Milo Mechem-Miller, Artemis Wiegand, Sadie Jensen and Carter Gwertzman worked with a playwriting artist for two weeks to develop and edit their one-act plays.

Each play was then cast with actors from Drama 2, and MIHS Drama collaborated with Youth Theater Northwest to bring in professional directors to direct the plays. 

At rehearsal, each play took its own small part of the PAC. It was a busy time in the PAC, from blocking, to choreography, to music with five separate plays rehearsing at once. 

This project fosters creativity and lets students bring their ideas to life. Playwrights were involved every step of the way, influencing every part of the show, allowing the play to be performed exactly as they envisioned it.

Student Perspective: Kyle Gerstel

The 2022 Playwriting Project was a delightful smorgasbord of themes and genres. Despite the plays’ differences in tone and subject matter, each combined comedy and drama to bring light to an important and relatable topic.

My biggest criticism of all of the plays is that moments that attempted realism often felt clunky. However, when embracing their theatricality, the plays thrived.

One example that stood out to me was “Misery Loves Company” by MIHS senior Artemis Wiegand, a seamless blend of narrative storytelling and performance art. The experimental staging and lack of dialogue incited a visceral reaction within me. Although I didn’t completely understand the story, I believe that enhanced the experience rather than detract from it. As Oscar Wilde once said, “the moment you think you understand a great work of art, it’s dead for you.”

Another play I particularly enjoyed was Milo Mechem-Miller’s “The Life and Death of Oliver O’Brien.” The surreal yet focused narrative felt reminiscent of the film “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind” while the use of clowns as stagehands reminded me of the play “The 39 Steps.”

“I wanted the stagehands’ presence to be a constant reminder of the theatricality and unrealistic fantasy that Ollie was trying to fit his life into,” Mechem-Miller said. “They served a comedic purpose, but also a thematic one.”

The quality of this year’s Playwriting Project is a testament to the hard work of the playwrights and actors in Drama 2 as well as the wonderful direction from Youth Theatre Northwest teaching artists. I look forward to seeing where the plays go from here!

Student Perspective: Lilly Jester

The MIHS Drama department really showed their ability to work together as a team in this project. I could tell that each miniature masterpiece was shared by everyone that worked on them, and I thought it was clear that they put effort into these plays.

I enjoyed seeing the wide range of emotions and ideas explored in these pieces, whether it be lighthearted and playful, or meaningful and melancholy. However, what made this night memorable for me was hearing the class discuss the process of this project. 

For around half an hour after the plays were performed, all of the playwrights, directors, and a few actors spoke about how they felt working on the project. I found it incredibly insightful to hear that most of this project was full of new experiences for them. Playwrights talked about having their work taken into a team to be tweaked and changed into something shared and felt out by everyone in the group. 

“It was a very stressful process but an amazing one at the same time. It’s very rewarding being able to put someone’s vision on stage and see it come to life,” Kate Gormley, who played Katie in Sadie Jensen’s “Dear Diary,” said.

Seeing these visions was undeniably interesting for someone like myself who is not entirely versed in the theatrical world, and it was really fascinating to see this art form as a group project among students.