Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Writer and actor teaching at Randolph hopes to inspire playwrights

According to playwright Adam Pasen, a play is never finished until it is performed. So when he gives a public reading at Randolph College next week, he plans to include a performance.

He also is challenging his playwriting students at Randolph to prepare scripts that are ready for the stage by March.

“I’m here to teach an appreciation of forms, and hopefully inspire some new writers to start doing some of their own works,” he said. “I hope they'll want to write some plays of their own.”

Pasen, the Randolph Writer-in-Residence for the spring 2014 semester, wrote his first play in eighth grade. A spy parody called James Bonbon, it won a contest to become the school play. After that, he was hooked. He has had plays produced or workshopped by American Theater Company, the Kennedy Center, and the Samuel French Off-Off Broadway Festival. One of his 10-minute plays is included in the 2011-2012 edition of Best American Short Plays.

Although he has found success in writing, he admitted that the process is somewhat difficult for him because he would rather be performing.  “I’m so much of an actor that every second I’m writing, I wish I was on stage instead,” he said. “But I also love playwriting, because I get to create the types of roles on stage that I would like to play.”

Pasen has played roles including the title character in the classic play Tartuffe, Edmund in Shakespeare’s King Lear, and Curly in Oklahoma. “I love playing villains, because it’s a nice departure from being the pathologically nice guy that I am,” he said.

Pasen will present a public reading of his work at 8 p.m. on February 5 in the Alice Ashley Jack Room in Smith Memorial Hall. The event is free and open to the public. Pasen will have actors read two of his 10-minute plays as well as a scene from his full-length play Tea with Edie and Fitz, which imagines authors Edith Wharton and F. Scott Fitzgerald meeting for tea.

While at Randolph, Pasen is teaching Exploring the Creative Process, a one-quarter class that he has transformed into a playwriting workshop. After a week of classes and one assignment, he was pleasantly surprised by his students’ attitude and ability, he said.

“They are happy to be there, and they’re remarkably knowledgeable and talented,” he said. “Their two-page skits showed a lot of promise, so I’m excited to see what they can do over the quarter.”

He plans to organize a showcase where the student writers’ short plays will be produced. “Because plays are meant to be performed, I think it completes the playwriting experience to see some of the work up on its feet,” Pasen said.