As students sat in a circle in New Space, they took turns peppering visiting playwright Jonathan Rand with questions on Friday, January 31.
“What is your inspiration?”
“Does writing get easier?”
“What genre do you gravitate towards?”
“How did you come up with the ending?”
Rand is author of Murder in Knife Room, the Theatre Program’s winter play, opening Friday, February 14. The whodunnit parody is one of 24 comedic works geared towards young adults that Rand has written over the years.
“It’s rare that you get to meet the playwright of the play you are working on,” SPS Director of Theatre Chris Briante told students. “It makes it real.”
The play, written in 2007, takes archetype characters from murder mysteries to create generic roles such as the Mysterious Host, Wealthy Dowager, and Omniscient Inspector, in this comical riff on the genre.
Celia Vergara '20 plays Mysterious Host in the SPS production. The Sixth Former has been writing stories since she was a young child. When she arrived at SPS, she found her niche in the Theatre Program. She’s working on her first script, which will be included in the student one-act plays during Spring Term.
“I've never met an actual playwright before,” says Vergara. “At least somebody that has written the play that I'm performing. It's kind of scary. Maybe he'll hate my performance, but at the same time, it's very cool because I get to ask all of these questions that I can only hypothetically get an answer for. So it's, it's calming, and it's frightening."
Among the answers, the 31-member cast of the play learned was the inspiration for Murder in the Knife Room. “Growing up, I liked the movie Clue. I used to love Agatha Christie novels when I was a kid,” confessed Rand.
The aspiring writers in the room also took to heart Rand’s advice on the craft. “All the random things you do in high school could lead to something,” Rand shared with students. Rand wrote his first play at 17 years old. Since then, his works have been performed more than 23,000 times in 65 different countries.
“I'm only a beginner, but I personally enjoy playwriting because it's where I write all the things that I'm thinking about,” explains Jin Chey ’21. "It doesn't have to be formal, and it doesn't have limitations. It’s a way for me to show that creative part of myself without any judgment. He told us today, if you write a thousand things, 900 things will be terrible, but that's okay. You build off of your ideas and, in the end, find the good ones.”