Two senior film, television, and theatre (FTT) majors in Notre Dame’s College of Arts and Letters will see their original plays come to life October 2–12 in the DeBartolo Performing Arts Center.
ND Theatre NOW is the only entirely student-driven production in this year’s FTT theatre season, with student writers, directors, and performers. It features two one-act plays: Beneath My Skin, by Zachary Wendeln, and Out of Orbit, by Lucas Garcia.
“The plays are both well-crafted, and even more, both plays are courageous and compelling in their characters and subject matter,” said Anne García-Romero, assistant professor of theatre who created ND Theatre NOW in 2012 to showcase her playwriting students’ work.
“It just so happens that the plays that we chose this year had similar themes, which gave us an exciting opportunity to produce two plays in one night that had some connections.”
The plays will share more than a theme, García-Romero said. Actors will play roles in both productions, creating an “ensemble experience.”
From Page to Stage
ND Theatre NOW is a chance for students who have gone through the playwriting curriculum to learn what it means to develop their play in a production setting, said García-Romero, an accomplished playwright. “You can learn in a classroom. You can learn in a rehearsal room—but ultimately for a playwright, you can only know what your play is if you have an audience present.”
Wendeln, who studies English and FTT, said his play, Beneath My Skin, was the first he had ever written, and the experience of bringing it to the stage has been “surreal.”
“These characters, these words, and this world have been in my head for so long,” he said. “Finally seeing them come to life is awesome and really fulfilling, but it’s also sort of nerve-wracking and strange. It’s something so personal to have out there.”
Garcia, who is also an FTT and English double major, had written plays before, but this is the first one he has seen produced. He wrote Out of Orbit last year while studying abroad and working with a writer’s group in Dublin.
Watching the play’s rehearsals, Garcia said, gave him a better understanding of how written scenes are interpreted.
“It’s very exciting,” he said. “But, it’s also an exercise in patience, because when you hear your words for the first time, they may not be at all how you imagined them. You think that people will understand the way that you wrote it, because you wrote it how it sounded in your head. So, I’m learning to be patient with the actors and directors, and I’m learning that there is not just one way to perform a play or understand it.”
Wendeln said working with the actors and directors during rehearsals has helped him edit his play and further develop the characters.
“It made me realize which characters I was neglecting in the writing process,” he said. “Sitting down with the actors and saying, ‘ok, let’s talk about this, how can we make this character function as a real, honest person on stage?’ has been so rewarding.”
An Illuminating Experience
Being part of a main-season production in the Regis Philbin Studio Theatre gives all of the students involved—not just the writers—a “world-class theatre experience,” said García-Romero.
“The Philbin Theatre is a remarkable black box,” she said. “The fact that our students produce work in a state-of-the-art facility is a huge advantage for them.”
Using parallel timelines, Beneath My Skin, directed by senior Joey Doyle, follows a young man who falls in love, goes on to have a family and comes to terms with his sexuality. Out of Orbit, directed by junior Anthony Murphy, is the story of a family reunion: a young man comes home with his boyfriend, beginning the process of coming out to his family.
“They’re both different plays in terms of setting and time period, but they have these very similar interests—What does it mean to come out to one’s family and friends? What does it mean to struggle with secrecy in terms of sexual orientation, and, as a playwright, how does one dramatize these issues?” Garcia-Romero said. “I think both Zach and Lucas have created captivating one-act plays that address these issues theatrically and poetically.”
García-Romero said the students involved in the production held a meet-and-greet with members of PrismND in September. After the October 5 matinee show there will be a discussion on LGBTQ issues in conjunction with the club.
“We’re excited to partner with another campus organization to support the work, to bring other points of view to the work, and to have a post-play discussion,” García-Romero said. “I think in this case it’s going to be an exciting chance to reach out to other departments and clubs on campus to have a conversation about these themes.”