November 10, 2014
Every summer at Empire State College students gather at the Metropolitan Center in downtown Manhattan to immerse themselves in plays and writing in the ESC Playwriting Lab.
Empire State College is the SUNY college for adults, where students work with a faculty mentor to design an individualized degree plan that recognizes their prior learning and experience and responds to their personal, professional, and academic goals.
I have had the privilege to lead the Playwriting Lab every summer since its inception, and it is wonderful to be part of the creativity that goes on here. I like to think of the Lab as a cocoon where, inspired by each other and the great plays we read and see and the guest playwrights who visit, we rub some sticks together—characters, memories, images, stories, feelings, thoughts—and eventually sparks appear and usher in amazing, funny, tragic, and mysterious worlds in play form that reflect on the pain and absurdity and small mercies of our human experience, as you will see from each of these selected plays.
In Tammy McNeill’s The Life, everything a woman treasures is suddenly threatened by her past; in Lisa Maynard’s The Porcelain Doll, a couple unearths the shame and secrets that may destroy their marriage; in Mik Black’s John Dillinger Was Captured Here, the threat takes a strange form—a man dressed as a clown; in Lisa Nicoll’s farce, Poedunk, a teenager’s trip to a therapist is so unsettling it might be healing; in Michele Richardson’s Signal Delays, an unexpected delay on the subway reflects on the random violence in our society; in Lee Summers’ One Shot Deal, a man’s search for temporary relief traps him within a deadening bureaucracy; and in Michael Schuval’s October Is Disappearing, a man tries to break free from his despair to connect with a woman who may or may not really be there.
The curators for this volume were Colleen Cosgrove, actor and playwright, who graduated from ESC in 2006; Lisa Maynard, playwright, who graduated from ESC in 2012; Lucy Winner, mentor at ESC for students in the arts area of study; and me, ESC graduate, 1993, and adjunct instructor in playwriting at ESC, 2005 to present).
We are grateful to Martin Denton for giving us the opportunity to showcase some of this extraordinary work coming out of the Lab and our playwriting independent studies.
- Lynda Crawford, playwright