Just as readers need writers, so do actors and directors.
And actors and directors also need audience members.
Our faculty members get that, and I continue to be amazed at how many opportunities they provide to make sure students are getting real-world experience.
My latest example comes from Friday’s New Script Showcase featuring winners of Stephens Scriptwriting Competition last semester.
The Scriptwriting Competition is open to all students, although Kate Berneking Kogut requires students in her Intro to Scriptwriting class to submit entries because, well, that’s what they’re studying.
Students turn in three copies of their entry (without their names on them) and Kogut, in turn, sends them to industry experts. (Don’t ask—names of her professional readers are super secret, but let’s just say they know what they’re doing.)
The winners then schedule auditions letting theatre and other students read for the parts.
That’s what I and other audience members got to watch Friday. The actors mostly read their parts with a narrator filling in action scenes. It’s called script-to-concert and lets writers see how their screenplays are going to actually turn out before going to the actual production stage.
“The writers work with the directors for two to three rehearsals so they can change and tweak some of their ideas and dialogue if they want,” Kogut tells me. “It’s really a great part of the process – essential for works that are written to be performed! The work isn’t finished until the words come out of the mouths of actors.”
And it was seriously entertaining. Friday’s event was open to campus but also hosted potential students and their families visiting campus that day—and I knew they had the audience won over when the dad sitting next to me started laughing.
The first script came from Amber Surdam. “The Scientist” was a script for a web series pilot, a love triangle of sorts when an overly dramatic woman must decide between nerdy scientist man and a hunky ladies’ man (pick the scientist!). Jessi Hynes was hilarious as the overly oiled, Fabio-esque lover boy.
Caitlin Gaines’ short screenplay, “Dr. Alan P. Kazaam & the Terrible Terrifying Night Circus” reminded me of an episode of the Twilight Zone—uber creative—which you can’t necessarily tell from this photo of the cast reading the script so you’ll just have to trust me.
In “Cock Fight,” written by Jenna Zmyslony, Jessi Hynes rocked another male role as a cocky rooster. She’s seriously hilarious—Dad next to me was rolling.
“Moonage Daydream,” written by Chelsea Wherry, probably can’t be defined by genre but had the audience captivated when a young man meets a grieving young woman. And finally, “Snowman” by Heather Beger was a very realistic tale of a sister mourning her brother’s untimely death. I don’t know whether the short stageplay was based on real events, but having lost a brother at a young age, I can tell you she captured the emotions very well.
(On a side note, you might remember Kogut’s name. Last month, I profiled her and her film “Nooner,” which was accepted into the Beloit International Film Festival. Next month, the short film will be screened at the Kansas City FilmFest, which runs April 10-14. Kogut joins fellow Stephens professor Kerri Yost, who is screening her short documentary, X Ray Man.)
The Screenwriting Competition and showcase really provide a great experience for students and audience members alike. Kudos to Kogut and all of the students who participated.