As Playwrights Do Plays, Students Run the Show
In December of 2010, over pizza and beer, Lang senior Kendall Storey and 2010 Lang graduate Julio Torres resolved to form their own student-run theater group. The duo had just missed the deadline to submit plays to Eugene Lang’s one-act festival, but Storey and Torres were determined to put on their plays. The pair decided to strike out on their own, founding Playwrights Do Plays, an organization completely independent of Lang’s theater program.
On September 17th, “The Exorcism,” and “The Gargoyle,” written and directed by Storey and Torres respectively, were performed at The Producers Club, a venue and rehearsal space, on West 44th Street. This is the second time that the group has successfully performed original works at the Producers Club. Last year, Playwrights Do Plays performed two other short comedies — one written by Torres and the other by Jordan Shavarebi — both of which were directed by Storey.
The first time around, Torres and Shavarebi took a backseat to directing and shared a cast between their two plays. Storey and Torres decided to take the group in a different direction this year. “We sort of addressed our mistakes the second time around by having a separate cast and this time writing and directing our own things, which is very different, ” Torres said.
They also booked a larger theater and started preparing earlier. “We began writing these plays a long time ago and over the summer we began to think about actors,” said Storey. After casting their plays, Storey explained they then had to go back and tailor their scripts, so that the characters better fit the actors’ capabilities.
Storey’s “The Exorcism” starred Lang junior Ben Ruffman-Cohen and sophomore Julián Segura. The lead female role was played by Emily Duncan from NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts. The cast of Torres’s “The Gargoyle” consisted of Lang sophomore Lena Einbinder, seniors Marquette Korff and James Angelos, and Theo Maltz from Marymount Manhattan.
“Making theatre is like creating a community,” said Zishan Ugurlu, associate professor in the theater department at Lang. “It pushes [students] out of their comfort zone [and] teaches them to listen, negotiate and compromise. It is a great thing that they are doing this. I’m so glad that they are creating something and learning from the experience. ”
Casting the actors and finding a performance space was the easy part; finding the money proved more difficult. “Funding was by far the biggest obstacle,” said Torres. “We were really counting on getting funding from the Lang Student Union,” said Storey, but because it was so early in the year that proved impossible as LSU was not yet active.
Instead, they held a fundraising party at AMO Studios in Bushwick. Torres noted that the party succeeded in raising $120, the amount needed to cover the cost of renting a theater at The Producers Club after 10 p.m on Saturday night.
After months of preparation, Torres and Storey are proud of their accomplishments and look forward to putting on another production in the future. “In retrospect, what I am most proud of is that we have been able to do this all on our own,” said Storey. “Even though sometimes it has felt like a lot to handle, it’s important to know that we are actually capable of writing plays, casting them, and putting them up in New York without having to have an internship at a theater beforehand, without having to sort of work our way up.”
Urgulu shares Storey and Torres’ sense of satisfaction at their achievements.
“In America success is such an important thing. But this is not about success. It’s about being creative, making choices and working together,” she said. “Success comes from the quality of the creativity, not whether it’s well received.”