This fall, the Drake University Theatre Department is producing four student-written and directed shows, which will be presented in the Student Playwriting Showcase.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, these shows will be filmed in Drake’s William S.E. Coleman Studio Theatre and posted to the DrakeUTheatre YouTube channel for a two-week period, from October 29 through November 12, 2020.

One of the four shows, Seawall, was written and directed by Brandon Shreve. In Seawall, Jack, a young poet from Louisiana, travels with his parents on their annual summer trip to Galveston, Tex. to visit family. The story is told using original poetry and a blues guitar.

Shreve said that writing and directing this show was one of the most creatively stimulating experiences he has ever had.

“It’s an under-represented story in the sense that often queer representation in the media illustrates coming out stories as back-story vignettes or short scenes,” Shreve said. “Different perspectives are rarely covered and the stories are frequently more complex than they are made out to be.”

Ben Jaeger, who plays the lead role of Jack, thinks that people will enjoy the show because the script is fresh and compelling. “It also integrates poetry and music within the play, which is something that I think most people will not have seen before,” Jaeger said.

Another student production, Crossroads, was written and directed by Jonah Montoya. Crossroads is a short play about two lifelong friends who decide to become cocaine dealers after graduating high school.

Montoya believes that audiences should see this show because the cast is delivering impactful performances that are centered around realistic people.

“This show is different because it relies solely on the relationship of the characters,” Montoya said. “The presence in the space is a clear view into another person’s vulnerability, which allows the audience to truly connect and understand the characters.”

Maria Gnoza, a senior at Drake University, has written, directed, and will be starring in her one-woman-show, Killing Roast Beef.

Killing Roast Beef  revolves around Bri, a young college student, who must decide whether she will have an abortion. Gnoza will play 13 different characters, including inanimate objects, that guide Bri through her decision making.

Gnoza thinks that the performance should be extremely entertaining and admitted that there are moments of improv that landed in the script, which should make it seem fresh.

“What differentiates this show from others is its structure and style. It is a one-woman show, but those are typically very narration heavy,” Gnoza said. “With Killing Roast Beef, it’s all dialogue, which makes it feel much more like a TV episode compared to a traditional play.”

The final show presented in this showcase is The Bling Ring, which was written by Ben Jaeger and was directed by Morgan Erwin.

The Bling Ring is based on the real-life stories of a group of Hollywood Hills teenagers who robbed over fifty celebrity homes throughout 2008–2009. The show examines the personal connections of the five members of the ring, and how their dangerous celebrity obsessions changed their lives.

Erwin was thankful that this show was easy to direct throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, as the characters do not interact with each other on stage.

“The masks brought a new challenge for the actors,” Erwin said. “In covering half of the face, the actors must work even harder to have perfect articulation and enunciation as well as learning to emote solely using their eyes and eyebrows as far as facial expressions go”.

All four of these shows will be available to watch at from October 29 to November 12, 2020.