The Ohio State University at Marion

Student creative writers bring work to stage for critique

Monday, May 1, 2017
Written by Hibba Said, intern

Julia Hansen, executive director of Theater Masters, along with up-and-coming playwright, Stephen Cedars, visited Ohio State Marion's Morrill Hall Auditorium on Wednesday, April 19, 4-7 p.m. to work on a unique project with Ohio State Marion student writers.

The project, billed as an interactive theatre workshop, was part of a $6,000.00 grant procured from Theater Masters, a support organization that is an artistic home to nurture, develop, and introduce the next generation of American Playwrights. The grant allowed Hansen and Cedars to visit Ohio State Marion, where they conducted a residency, working with students in the writing of ten-minute one-act plays on the social justice theme of prison reform.

One of the highlights of the residency was an “Interactive Read-Through Workshop,” where Hansen and Cedars, worked with student thespians, Hannah Fuller, Michael Cochran, Alex Kauser, and Chris Wiley to give voice to the works of young playwrights from Associate Professor of English, Stuart Lishan's, Introduction to Creative Writing class.

“Our students have had a transformative experience in this class,” Lishan said. “Not only did they get to visit Marion Correctional Institution, where they had the opportunity to meet and write with some of the inmates, they had the privilege of working with Julia and Stephen this week.”

According to Lishan, the goal of the Workshop was to stage dramatic readings of these original one-act plays, receive insights, and direct feedback from visiting Theater Masters professionals. In many of the works, student writers tried to challenge preconceptions about inmates and raise awareness about some of the problems centered on our current prison system.

Beyond that, explained Lishan, “in creative writing, we want to write something that is authentic and true.”

The characters in the plays were partly inspired by student visits with inmates at Marion Correctional Institution during spring semester. These visits were coordinated by Kendra Hovey of Healing Broken Circles, an organization that provides classes to inmates in areas such as theater, language arts, foreign languages, creative writing, and computer programming.

Hansen thanked the Robert and Artist James Foundations for providing funding to make this possible.

She believed it was important for people to think about ways they individually can help others understand the plight of those in the social justice system.

“We are using a theatrical form in order to awaken people’s curiosity, sensitivity and ideas,” Hansen explained.

“I think the students here at Ohio State Marion have done just that [accomplishing] their set goals and I am thrilled,” she said.

Director and Playwright Stephen Cedars has worked with Theater Masters for about 5 years and shared that his time working with these students was inspirational.

“It was a great honor to work with all the student’s and an inspiration because in less than a week they have created perfectly sound plays.” Cedars said.

Ohio State Marion sophomore English major Daniel Schirtzinger was one of the masterminds behind the plays written in Dr. Lishan’s class. Schirtzinger explained that visiting Marion Correctional Institution influenced the story that he wrote about in his play. .

“They seemed like normal people,” said Schirtzinger referring to the inmates he met. “In fact, I would go as far as to say they seem more gentle than normal people would,” he added.

In 10 years, Schirtzinger’s goal is to become an English professor at a college. The experiences he gained from the Interactive Read-Through Workshop is something he believes he could utilize throughout his career as an educator.