Posts Tagged ‘Jarod Witkowski’

NEOMFA Play Festival

February 14th, 2012 No comments

Went to the NEOMFA festival on February 4 and February 9 at convergence and had a blast.  First of all, there were so many faces there that I recognized that it literally was like walking into a holiday celebration at a family house.

Mike Williams’ piece Plant Life was up first.  While it felt a bit unfinished, it was a yearning piece that sought and looked forward with hope to the possibility that the future might bring.  Alan’s (Tom Kondilas) wife Leslie (Liz Conway) has liver disease and needs a new liver.  The waiting list game isn’t working for the pair and they opt in to the possibilities for a new liver presented by a research scientist (Michael Regnier) whose work with plants has yielded intriguing possibilities.  Combined with this, the deterioration of Alan and Leslie’s relationship begins against the disease and the financial stress on the pair (he is a poor artist, she is the bread-winner).  There were two real highlights, I felt. The first was the rapid succession of wake-up-we-have-to-go moments when the phone rang announcing a possible liver donor had been found.  The succession demonstrated the frustration, terror, and effort that is involved in dealing with transplantation and accomplished the task of moving the play forward both in time and in plot.  The second was the work of convergence in using their trap to allow the birth of the plant Leslie from the pod. Having planted and tended the seed given him by the mad scientist, Alan receives the fruits of his labors in the form of a “new” Leslie who holds within her the liver that the real Leslie needs.  While at first an innocuous plant, at the end it is a massive pod that breaks open revealing: Leslie.  The effect was incredible and the audience rejoiced in seeing it—showing again that to a certain extent spectacle is what drives entertainment in a theater.

Jarod Witkowski’s play Nothing Funny was quite different from Williams’ piece, which was primarily plot-driven. Witkowski’s play’s concern is innocuous enough, a son (Benjamin Gregg) and his relationship (or lack thereof) with his parents played by both Amy Bistok Bunce and Wes Shofner—whom it was great to see at convergence again.  The play begins with the mother shoving dinner to her son saying, “I never liked you much as a kid.”  From there the play explodes in an onslaught of strange and rambling monologues, songs, dislocated scene sequences, jumps in time and space, odd interludes, and startling uses of the space that create a highly expressionistic and subjective emotional dissection of a family’s dysfunctional life together.  A television and colorful old pump assembly (put together by Wes) allowed for movement through time at the push of a…handle.  So the play jumps between the present, the future, the past, funny interlude, monologue, etc.  By focusing on these three people and their relationship with one another, Witkowski does a highly effective job of excavating the emotional life of the family: the resentments, disappointments, yearning for connection, and inability to connect or even express themselves—comically highlighted by the constant refrain of both parents: “grammatical error” as their son speaks.  That is, it’s not enough to strive sincerely to express yourself clearly to another person, but to have to do it in precisely correct grammar—as that seems to be what the person your talking to is focused on—well, that just makes it all the more difficult.

Both of the plays were challenging and fun to see and convergence really came together to put on a wonderful set of shows for the NEOMFA playwrights.

NEOMFA Playwright Festival

January 26th, 2012 No comments

This year’s NEOMFA Playwright festival will be at convergence-continuum‘s Liminis theater.

The 2012 NEOMFA Playwrights Festival features thesis productions of Plant Life by Mike Williams, Directed by Geoffrey Hoffman and Nothing Funny by Jarod Witkowsk, directed by Clyde Simon, at The Liminis. Plant Life will run Thursday, February 2 – Saturday, February 4 and Nothing Funny will run Thursday, February 9 – Saturday, February 11. All shows are at 8:00pm.

“These plays are the culminating experience of three years of intensive study,” says playwright and professor Mike Geither; the plays are co-produced by Convergence Continuum, NEOMFA and Cleveland State University.

The Northeast Ohio Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing (NEOMFA) is a consortium of Cleveland State University, Kent State University, The University of Akron, and Youngstown State University that allows students to take classes on four different campuses and earn a degree from a single unified writing program. Emerging writers may study in four genres – creative non-fiction, fiction, playwriting and poetry – and take advantage of the resources offered on all four campuses. Since its inception in 2005, the NEOMFA has offered small-group workshops, open readings, summer travel fellowships, and high-profile visiting writers, in addition to career-preparing internships, competitive graduate funding, and a diverse Midwestern landscape that tempts the creative eye.

More info can be found at the neomfaplaywright website.

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