Playwright to lead workshop

BY JOSIE JONES | MARCH 11, 2010 7:30 AM

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When she was young, Jennifer Fawcett lived on a goat farm.

Then, at the age of 23, fresh out of the UI Playwrights’ Workshop, she wrote her first play based on those experiences, Goat Show.

After writing the script in 1997, Fawcett performed Goat Show on and off for 10 years — including theaters in Toronto, Ottawa, and Riverside Theatre, 213 N. Gilbert St.

Because she’s no stranger to the craft, Fawcett, along with Sean Christopher Lewis, will lead “Bringing Personal Stories to Life,” a playwright workshop, at 1 p.m. Saturday in Riverside Theatre.

Admission to the class is $40, $30 for season-ticket holders. The workshop is for ages 16 and older.

“Jennifer’s solo play [Goat Show] was very enthusiastically received by our audience in 2007,” said Riverside artistic director Jody Hovland. “It’s a captivating story told in a very theatrical and imaginative way.”

The playwright has been the only one to act in the solo show, but she would enjoy seeing the play performed by another actor.

“It never occurred to me that someone else would want to perform such a personal show,” she said.

Since writing Goat Show, the Canadian has written eight more plays with many still in progress. Five have been produced. Her most recent play, Atlas of Mud, won the National Science Playwriting Award from the Kennedy Center in 2008, and it will be produced in Riverside Theatre’s next season.

Hovland said the workshop will show how attendees can turn personal stories into stage-worthy material. Fawcett agreed, saying she hopes the class will “plant the seeds” and that students will leave feeling inspired. The leaders plan to use some physical exercises as well as writing-based activities to find the stories that make compelling theater.

“The big thing is identifying the story you want to tell and where it lives inside you,” Fawcett said.
The playwright tends to write about things she sees, in the newspaper or on the Internet, for example. Such topics include war, science, and unanswerable questions.

As she gets older, Fawcett feels her work is changing.

“It takes a long time to write a play,” she said. “And over the course of writing a play, you change as a person. Now, I’m doing different things with structure, trying different writing styles, and choosing more difficult subject matter.”

Pointing out that playwrights outnumber the theaters willing to produce shows, she thinks it is important for a playwright to have patience and tenacity.

“Plays can be a very powerful way to tell stories,” she said. “So you have to be able to stick with it even when you get rejected, which is really hard.”

Fawcett also writes poetry and fiction. She likes the density available in poetry, yet enjoys telling a story from an interior point of view through fiction. Despite being attracted to other forms of writing, she feels most comfortable with playwriting.

“People express themselves through different types of art,” she said. “For me, the way I think, is in plays.”

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