Student Production Workshop, Roundabout’s youth ensemble, came together last month to explore Kingdom Come through a pre-show workshop and a discussion with playwright Jenny Rachel Weiner. After dinner, the ensemble attended the evening performance of Kingdom Come.
Roundabout Teaching Artists Elizabeth Dunn-Ruiz and Jason Jacobs led a workshop that explored how playwrights can use a state of being, in this case loneliness, to inform a play. “The show seems to address questions of connection and loneliness, so working with teenagers, we thought that was something they could relate to. We wanted them to think about not only the feelings that are associated with loneliness, but also the behaviors that come from loneliness,” said Elizabeth of their goals for the day.
The ensemble began the workshop by competing in an alphabet relay, where they wrote out their responses to the word “loneliness”. They then created tableaus, from which they wrote monologues. After sharing their monologues in a small group, the students worked together to write a play inspired by the characters they had created. Kingdom Come playwright Jenny Rachel Weiner arrived just as the students were presenting their plays. “Loneliness is such a cross-generational topic, so it was amazing to see their take on loneliness, and their experience of it. It was really moving to see their work,” said Jenny of the students’ writing.
After their presentations, the ensemble had the opportunity to sit down with Jenny and talk about Kingdom Come and her career as a playwright. The students asked her about collaborating with designers on the show, writing relationships that exist only online, and how she, as a female playwright, remains persistent without being labeled as “pushy”.
Students took away new insights from their conversation with Jenny, both personal and academic. Feleesha, a member of SPW’s acting ensemble, realized something new about the challenges of playwriting, “Jenny talked about the arch of a story, as well as the arch of the characters. I didn’t realize that individual characters have their own arches too. As a playwright, not only do you have to worry about the story being cohesive, but you also have to see that the individual characters are growing within the story, along with the storyline. I had never thought of that before.” Tamia, another acting ensemble member, was particularly excited to learn more about the successes of a female playwright “I like that she was motivated to make sure that the play was what she wanted it to be and how she wanted it to be. I really admire the drive that she has.”
Jenny felt similarly inspired after their meeting, “It always feels so special and really important to me to be able to talk to young people who are interested in theatre, because I so deeply remember being that age and being so excited and passionate about having a life in the theatre.” The students definitely had an evening that they won’t soon forget.
2016-2017 Season, Education @ Roundabout, Kingdom Come, Roundabout Underground, Student Production Workshop