Feb. 16, 2017
Catholic University M.F.A. playwriting candidates Garret Lee Milton and Rebecca Dzida will have the chance this week to watch fully-mounted productions of their original thesis works in the University’s Hartke Theatre.
The opportunity for student playwrights to see their work brought to life on stage is one thing that makes Catholic University’s M.F.A. playwriting program so unique, according to Jon Klein, director of the program. At least two originally-written student plays are performed annually, with the help of local directors and set designers.
“This allows students to have an idea of what it’s like to go into a theatre and have a play produced,” Klein said. “They’re working with people from outside the school who are anxious to work on new material. It gives everyone the best possible learning experience to understand what it’s like to be a professional playwright.”
Milton’s play, SISSY, accompanied by Johann Sebastian Bach and a Mouse, is an absurdist look at office culture based on the ancient story of Sisyphus. It features, among other characters, a singing mouse.
“This play has become a sort of adult, absurd fairy tale,” Milton said. “There’s this childish and crude humor sometimes, but it’s also mixed in with these very serious adult decisions and realities. And it never takes itself too seriously.”
Dzida’s play Preggers, or Parenthood for Virgins, is a comedic take on the biblical infancy narratives starring Mary, Joseph, and the angel Gabriel.
“This play is about parenthood at its core and that, to me, is inherently heartbreaking, but also hilarious at the same time,” Dzida said. “I’m just trying to encapsulate both of those feelings at once.”
Because the M.F.A. playwriting program is so individually focused, Klein has taught students in “every conceivable genre” of theatre, from gritty realism and sharp social critiques, to satirical comedies poking fun at celebrity culture.
And alumni of the program have found success in the Washington, D.C., area. Tearrance Chisholm, who earned his M.F.A. in playwriting in 2016, wrote his play Hooded: or Being Black for Dummies as a Catholic University student. Now it’s being performed to rave reviews by Washington, D.C.’s Mosaic Theater Company.
Earlier this month, Stephen Spotswood, M.F.A. 2009, was nominated for the Charles MacArthur Award For Outstanding New Play for his work, The Girl in the Red Corner, which tells the story of a female mixed martial arts fighter.
Klein believes these recent success stories are reflective of a growing interest in producing new and original plays in D.C. He said Catholic University’s playwriting program is a good training ground for creative experimentation, education, and networking with other theatre professionals.
“D.C. is really a hotbed of new play production,” Klein said. “I try to get students ready for what I hope will be a productive and active career as a playwright.”
Milton’s thesis play SISSY, accompanied by Johann Sebastian Bach and a Mouse, will be performed in Hartke Theatre Feb. 17, 23, and 25, at 7:30 p.m., and Feb. 18 and 26, at 2 p.m. Dzida’s thesis play, Preggers, or Parenthood for Virgins, will be performed in Hartke Theatre (3801 Harewood Road, N.E., Washington, D.C.) Feb. 18, 22, and 24 at 7:30 p.m., and Feb. 19 and 25, at 2 p.m.
Tickets are $15 for adults; $10 for senior citizens, students, CUA alumni, faculty, and staff; and $5 for CUA students. For more information or to buy tickets, call 202-319-4000 or go to drama.cua.edu.
MEDIA: To schedule an interview or attend a performance, contact the Office of Marketing and Communications at firstname.lastname@example.org or 202-319-6595.