SHS Senior Rachel T. was a national semifinalist in the ITS Playworks program for her one-act play "Prince Ham." Her full-length play "The Paper Dolls" was performed at SHS last winter and the production won an Excellent rating at the 2016 State ITS Convention. Rachel will serve as Vice President of the SHS Drama ITS Club this year.
Tell us a little about yourself! Who are you? What is your background in the Sehome Drama program?
I’ve been involved in Sehome Theatre since I was a freshman, and I can gladly say that being in this program has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my life in terms of growth, exploration, and support. Once freshman summer hit, I actively pursued the notion of playwriting, as it was the perfect combination for my love of acting and love of writing.
Rachel with her award from the Playworks competition.
What was the competition that you were involved in?
When the Playworks competition was recommended to me by Ms. Arens, where plays under 30 minutes are submitted to professional playwrights and reviewed to potentially be performed at a National Level, it felt like the perfect opportunity. I wasn’t looking to go for gold, of course, but by that point I had developed and finished a short and concise Shakespeare spoof called “Prince Ham,” which was a 15 minute play ridiculing all the stereotypes of Shakespearean language and plot.
What was your process like for entry into this competition?
As much as you may like me to elaborate on a complex writing process, it isn’t especially difficult to understand. I think of an idea, I freak out and geek out about if for a good week until it has a good beginning and overall structure, and when I begin to write it I drastically change everything about the plot, characters, and central themes until it comes out as a wildly different, but thankfully complete, dramatic creation. Such was the process for Prince Ham, and for me it is much easier to write comedy this way since you have to think of it on the fly (comedy is rarely planned in everyday life, why should writing be different?).
What was the most powerful or inspirational moment from this competition?
The most powerful moment simply had to do with the sheer shock of receiving top ten! In the country? That’s nuts! It’s difficult for me to this day to even conceive of that level of scale in association with the silly ten-minute play I wrote. People call me too humble; there’s no such thing as that in my eyes.
Was there a challenging moment you faced? How did you handle it?
The greatest degree of challenge came with the comedic aspects, as it usually does when you write comedy into something. With physical humor, it’s the actor’s responsibility to convey the humor, not the writer. In this particular play the words were far too important, and the unlikely possibility of the play’s performance in front of a live audience meant that I couldn’t trust actors to convey comedy like traditional Shakespeare might. Therefore, make Shakespeare ridiculous.
How have you changed or grown as an artist because of this award and competition?
It takes so much dedication to finish something, much less be handed an award for it. I grew in both my confidence and my appreciation for the work undertaken by so many beloved playwrights, Shakespeare, Beckett, Stoppard, O’Neill, all the greats. When you learn to appreciate your own hard work, you are better able to understand the work of others as well.
Why do you think it is important to study theater?
Theater was, and continues to be, the epicenter of concentration, theme, and connection. Where else is a living, breathing human present and conveying living, breathing meaning? On film it can be chopped, on a painting it can be made more or less real than what it is, but in person, it is. There is no second chance, editor’s reel, or paintbrush to be seen. It is immediate and immersive, much like the stories required for it, and to study it is to tune these elements and apply them more directly to our immediate, immersive daily lives.
"The Paper Dolls," a dark comedy about murderous sorority sisters, was staged last winter by SHS Drama.
(photo by Logan Earle)