Monday, March 3, 2014
Playwright takes theatre skills to the stage
By Kelli M. Titus
Franco Vitella likes to bend the rules; a skill evident in his playwriting and the key to his recent success.
Oakland University’s theatre program provided the tools that Vitella used to create a work of art. With the opportunity to produce plays on campus and resources to submit work into theater festivals, the playwright said he experienced opportunities at Oakland University that he wouldn’t have anywhere else.
Vitella began his studies at Oakland University as an English major. His goal of writing short stories and fiction novels would become a distant memory once he attended a course on playwriting with OU lecturer Kitty Dubin.
“I took the playwriting class to improve dialogue and just kind of got hooked,” Vitella said.
As a playwright for more than 30 years, Dubin has been expanding the knowledge of OU students in her playwriting classes since 1997.
"Her style doesn’t necessarily match my style of work,” Vitella said about Dubin, “but she’s great in seeing the value in other people’s perspective and creative work and is supportive of that.”
Dubin teaches a beginning and advanced course on playwriting. Those who show promise in the first course are asked to join advanced playwriting. Vitella was one of those students.
“Franco displayed his talents right away,” Dubin said. “He thought out of the box and was very creative about what he wrote about.”
The playwright process is different for everyone, but involves the same vital steps to become successful: self-marketing, networking and perseverance. Dubin teaches these values in her classes while keeping an open conversation about her students’ work and how they can improve it. Vitella found the instruction a great developmental process that prepared him for starting his own production.
“There are definitely rules to playwriting,” said Vitella, who graduated from OU in 2009 with a Bachelor of Arts in Theatre. “I think learning these rules gave me the foundation to be able to know how I can manipulate them.”
Vitella utilized his ability of playwriting manipulation in his newest creation “A Play by Franco Vitella.” The Magenta Giraffe Theatre Company presented the performance throughout February at the Abreact Performance Space in Detroit. Vitella considers the production his greatest accomplishment as a playwright.
The Magenta Giraffe Theatre Company is a nonprofit organization aimed to educate and reestablish Detroit’s theatre community through theatrical productions. Vitella works closely with members of the theatre company and supports their mission.
“A Play by Franco Vitella” is an account of Vitella’s struggle with writer’s block. The production imitates the playwright’s life, following the cast and crew on their journey to produce a new play. On the stage, Vitella’s character is played by actor Artun Kircali who magnifies the playwright’s failed attempts to write a production while the actors, who play a version of themselves, struggle to keep up with Vitella’s frustrations and diluted visions.
Vitella was pleased with the positive reactions the play received. He hopes one day to pursue a Master of Fine Arts in playwriting and inspire the next generation of playwrights like Kitty Dubin did for him.
“Kudos to Franco, because it is very hard to be a playwright,” Dubin said. “You have to keep at it and become your own cheerleader. That is something I really admire about him.”