Photo Inspires Theatre Production at Smith Opera House – Hobart and William Smith Colleges \
The HWS Update

Photo Inspires Theatre Production at Smith Opera House

In one weekend, students, faculty, staff and community members came together to produce entirely local theatre. As part of “The Finger Lakes Photo/Plays” a total of 51 volunteers wrote, cast, directed and acted in a performance that premiered on the Smith Opera House stage. Organized by Associate Professor of Theatre Chris Woodworth, participants wrote through the night, and staged their performance for a live audience on Saturday, Feb. 24 as part of a fundraiser to benefit the Smith Center for the Arts.

Photo_Plays_3“It’s always staggering to me how much these artists accomplish in a short period of time. I almost wish we could bring in the audience to watch the entire process,” says Woodworth, who has been a part of the Photo/Plays since they began three years ago. “Groups rehearse in every nook and cranny of the Smith Opera House. The entire building reverberates with excitement!”

“Finger Lakes Photo/Plays” are based on the model created by the Actors Theatre, in which volunteers create a play inspired by a local photograph taken by a local photographer. The tradition began in 2001, when the Actors Theatre of Louisville gave playwrights a copy of Lee Friedlander’s photograph “Mount Rushmore, South Dakota, 1969,” and challenged them to write a play. The result was an unexpected and engaging portrait of life in their city.

HWS Chief Photographer Kevin Colton provided this year’s selection. He revealed the photo to participants exactly 24 hours before their performance. Colton has been a photographer in the Finger Lakes Region for 36 years. His work has earned a wide-range of honors and awards, including a Gold Award from the Council for the Advancement and Support of Education.

“My art means something different to everyone who looks at it,” says Colton. “I was very impressed with the many stories and plays that came out of a single photograph.”

Several HWS staff, faculty and students participated in the event including Visiting Assistant Professor of Africana Studies James McCorkle, and Assistant Director of the Center for Teaching and Learning Ingrid Keenan as playwrights; Kathleen Fowkes ’18, Thomas Perry ’19 and Professor of Dance Cynthia Williams, as directors; Taylor Gorycki ’18 as stage manager; Anika Hanson ‘18, Gretty Hollister ’20, Isabel Ingram ’19, Phoebe MacCurrach ’18, Livvy Milne ’18, Sariah Robert ’21, Veronica Rogers ’20, Grace Ruble ’19, Patrick Wolber ’18, Buildings and Grounds staff member Kevin Johnson, Associate Professor of Writing and Rhetoric Maggie Werner, Professor of History Susanne McNally, Assistant Professor of Psychology Emily Fisher, Associate Professor of Mathematics and Computer Science Joe Rusinko, staff member Carrie Massey, and Kelly Walker, resident sound designer and instructor of Sound Design for the Theatre Department as actors.

Geneva native and accomplished playwright Charlotte Rahn-Lee also participated in the production.

Rahn-Lee is a New York based playwright, whose plays have been produced by Speranza Theatre Company where they premiered at the Philadelphia Fringe Festival and the Sam French Off-Broadway short play festival. She is a member of the Uncut Pages Theater Company.