Tuesday, October 18, 2005
MTD presents play written, directed by students
Oakland University presents “Life, Death, Etc.” a series of one-act plays by OU student John Wencel and directed by fellow student Rob Arbaugh. The production is an all-student effort from playwriting and directing to acting, make-up, set design and lighting. Arbaugh describes the end product as, “Great theatre in less than an hour.”
Only two student-directed projects are approved each year at Oakland and normally the directors submit works by already established playwrights. Arbaugh chose to propose a set of one-act plays written by his fellow theatre student and longtime friend. Both Arbaugh and Wencel were amazed when the project was approved and included as part of the theatre season.
“I’ve worked with Rob before at Heartlande and I felt that I was putting this in the hands of someone I trust. I’ve known him forever, too. That helps,” Wencel said. The two have been friends since Wencel’s freshman year at Anchor Bay High School.
Wencel was one of the selections in Heartlande Theatre’s Play-By-Play competition in 2005 and included that piece as part of “Life, Death, Etc.” He developed some of “Life, Death, Etc.” in the Playwriting class taught at Oakland University and currently is taking an advanced playwriting class. Both are taught by playwright Kitty Dubin.
In “Life, Death, Etc.” the four one-acts average about 10 minutes each. All are comedies except for one. The first, “Up in the Air,” is about a successful New York playwright and his muse in flight from Chicago to New York. The playwright doesn’t really create, but rather puts real-life on the page, always using his muse, a woman named Paula Benjamin, as the main character. The playwright is thrown for a loop when Paula decides she’s had enough.
“Gas Crisis,” the second play, is a comedy that explores the commitment required to have a relationship through the conversation two men have with one another. The third play, “Shag,” is the only departure from this mostly comedy lineup. It is about a grandfather and his grandson who meet for the first time when the grandson’s mother is stricken with cancer.
Wencel’s last play, “Unfinished Business,” will leave audiences wanting more. The story is about a struggling writer whose well-intentioned friend sets up a lunch date with a woman in the publishing business to help him out. She turns out to be the writer’s ex-girlfriend from an unpleasant breakup, and the two of them find there are a lot of loose ends that need tying up.
“Basically these plays are all about John’s words and I really want this evening to be an experience,” Arbaugh said. “Rather than going to see a play, it’s an experience that will make you laugh, cry and then laugh until you cry.”
Watching his works progress through the actors on stage has provided Wencel with some surprises when it clicks in unexpected ways. “It’s so different when you hear people saying your words and you think to yourself, “Did I write that, because that’s pretty good.”
Show times are scheduled for Oct. 20-23 at 8 p.m., with an additional 2 p.m. performance on Oct. 23, in the Varner Lab Theatre.
Tickets only are available at the door for $5 for general audience and $3 for students. For more information, call the Varner Box Office at (248) 370-3013 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.