Although there’s a chance Newark High School senior McKinley Miller’s one-act play, “The Writer’s Plight,” won’t be performed on-stage anytime soon, it’s now in virtual production.
The play follows a struggling young writer as he starts to give up on his career as an author; however, his characters visit him as he sleeps in an effort to keep him writing and save their lives.
“At its core, this show is a conversation about why the arts are important — mainly creative writing — and why people should pursue them,” Miller said.
Miller gave her finished piece to NHS Drama Club director Emily Howard, who thought it would be a great one-act for interested students to produce.
“I offered to direct the play,” Howard said. “We planned to hold auditions after the spring musical and bring it to the NHS stage in May.”
In 2017, Howard started putting on student-directed plays each May.
“The Drama Club forms a subcommittee that picks a piece of theater, organizes the short rehearsal process and ultimately puts the play on stage,” Howard said. “This is a great recruitment tool for the club and it allows the students to take ownership of parts of the theater process they haven’t been involved in before. This year, our committee was planning to produce two pieces: McKinley’s play and one other short comedy that involved many actors.”
The COVID-19 shutdown changed that plan and the event was postponed. Yet, the club is proceeding with auditions, casting and virtual rehearsals.
“I’ve never worked with a student playwright before, so this experience was already unconventional,” Howard said. “I decided that we could still hold auditions, cast the play and ‘workshop’ the piece through an online rehearsal process. I made an announcement at a virtual Drama Club meeting and sent out audition notices through email. Actors had to find and prepare a monologue for auditions, and then schedule an online meeting with McKinley and me. We had six actors audition — the perfect number needed for the play. McKinley and I met together after all of the auditions to cast the show.”
Joining Miller in the cast are sophomores Cody Acquista, Dylan Burley and Veronica Swann; juniors Jack Comella and Ryan Hermenet; and senior Deborah Szarek.
“We decided as a group to meet twice a week,” Howard said. “I asked all of the actors to reflect on their characters, and come ready to discuss who they are and what their inspirations might be. We have a unique opportunity to work directly with the playwright in our rehearsal room. It will be a mutually beneficial process for the actors and McKinley. I’m excited to see if any adjustments are made to her script based on what she sees the actors bring to the characters.”
Miller wants to pursue film and or theatrical writing in college.
“Even in these times, this is more that I could have imagined,’’ she said. “Just writing the play was fun, but now this. I never thought there would be a possibility of doing this play with people who care about the things I care about. It’s a dream come true and more than I could have imagined.”