SHS student to have play published through L’ville Actors Theatre

By: 
Staff Writer Kate Wehlann

SHS senior Ethan Bower surveys the theatre where his play was set to be performed before the COVID-19 virus closed down much of the non-essential businesses in the region.

At first, Ethan Bower was pleasantly surprised and excited to find out his play, “Postmodern Dad,” was selected to be performed at the Louisville Actors Theatre as part of their New Voices Young Playwrights Festival. Then he found out his 10-minute script was one of eight plays chosen out of 829.

“At first, I didn’t know it was as big of a thing as it ended up being,” he said. “I thought there would be, I don’t know, 30 people who applied to this. I did not expect 830. When I first reacted, I thought, ‘Oh, awesome!’ and then they told me it was out of 830 people and I was like, ‘Whoa! OK!’ I think one of my first thoughts was I wish I had written a better play for them! I told that to my director and she was like, ‘No, this play’s great!’ I know it needs some touching up.”

Students from 31 schools in six counties from Kentucky and Indiana submitted scripts and 37 readers, made up of Actors Theatre staff and volunteers, chose the top eight.

Unfortunately, due to the COVID-19 outbreak and the measures being taken to stem the tide of the virus, the festival at which “Postmodern Dad” was to premier has been cancelled. Still, the plays written by the eight students will be published in the New Voices Young Playwrights anthology, which will be released later this summer.

“Postmodern Dad” is the story of a nuclear family, sitting down to a normal dinner, during which the father comes to realize he’s in a play. He starts noticing the lights and sees people moving around “backstage,” and begins to realize everything around him is designed and scripted.

“It’s like a lucid dreaming sort of thing, where you’re dreaming you’re doing something and you think, ‘This isn’t right — oh yeah, I’m dreaming,’ but in a play,” said Bower. “It’s very weird. That’s one of the things I say whenever I describe it to people. It’s very weird. It has a song in it; it’s a one-act musical.”

Bower composed the song and arranged the track for the play.

He’s been writing scripts and plays for some time now, along with starring in plays in drama club throughout his high school career. While he has sent short films to film festivals in the past, this is the first play he has sent out for possible production.

“It seems to have resonated well with people,” he said.

After finding out “Postmodern Dad” had been selected for the NVYP festival, Bower attended workshops, where he got to meet the other playwrights being represented on stage.

“It was very cool to see the other people selected,” he said. “They’re all my age. We were all talking about weird play stuff. I felt like I didn’t know anything because they were all from like, fun, fancy places … I think a couple of them were also from public schools. I felt like I was completely in the dark. Of course, in English classes, we’ve looked at plays, and that’s always fun, and I’m in Drama Club, and we put on plays. I felt I got a pretty good understanding from that, but hearing them talk and they’d be like, ‘For this, we turn DS Stage left,’ and I’m like, ‘What does that mean?’ They’d be using terminology and I didn’t know what they meant.”

He said he played the demo track of his song for the workshops and said one of the girls complimented him on it. Bower said he hadn’t been paying attention to the thing the girl was talking about.

“It was some musical term — ‘You paid attention to the circle of fifths!’ or something like that,” he said. “I just write what sounds good. I spent an hour just hitting notes on my piano.”

The student playwrights worked with the Learning and Creative Engagement team at Actors Theatre, who assigned a director, dramaturg (script doctor), design team and a group of actors to perform the plays. Each team participated in workshops, production meetings and the full rehearsal process before the festival was cancelled.

Bower’s director was Michaela Barczak and his dramaturg was Liam Gibbs.

“They’re great because they’ve also studied music theory and conducting, so they told me musicals were perfect for them,” said Bower. “That was another thing I was worried about at first. I wasn’t sure they’d want to use the song, and they said, ‘Oh, definitely we’re going to use the song.’ Right before I sent it out, I put a note on it, saying the song was optional and didn’t have to be used if they didn’t like it, as my insurance.”

Bower said he was drawn to writing plays more so than scripts for film (though he still enjoys them) because of the limitations put on stage shows.

“There’s a lot of fun in the production of it,” said Bower. “… There is just something about plays that make you work with your limitations. You can’t be like, ‘We’re going to CG this dragon!’ or whatever. You have to think practically about what kind of effects you have going. There’s something nice about working with that limitation and maybe having to work with a restricted cast or something. It gets you to carve it down into a more refined piece of media than you had before. I really like that aspect of it.”

Bower wasn’t cast to perform in “Postmodern Dad,” but he was set to be playing a main character in the Salem High School production of “Godspell” this spring, which has likely been cancelled as well. Bower said he plans to study scriptwriting after high school.

“I want to go out to New York and see if I can get something done there,” he said. “Work on writing things.”

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