Award-winning playwright prepares for selective THEA 310

In a first-time event for the Department of Theatre and Dance, renowned playwright Elizabeth Wong will visit Geneseo in the spring to direct a modern-dress version of Molière’s “Tartuffe” and to teach THEA 310: Playwriting.

Wong earned a Master of Fine Arts playwriting at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts in 1991. She is best known for her award-winning play “Letters to a Student Revolutionary” and her play “Kimchee & Chitlins.”

Opportunities for a spot in THEA 310 were open to students of sophomore standing or higher, regardless of major. Those interested were required to submit an original script for a five-minute play with a maximum of three characters. The prompt - which Wong provided - was, “There is a key in an envelope in a drawer.”

Though there were many submissions from a wide variety of majors and class years, Wong, in consultation with the department of theatre and dance, selected six students for the class.

“The writing samples I received impressed me,” Wong said in an email interview. “All of the samples were lively, inventive and meritorious. All of them truly knocked me out.”

Wong said that she decided to pick students who demonstrated that they were already writing at a high level.

“They were not at the embryonic stage; they are advanced and might benefit from an intensive master-class writing workshop,” Wong said. “These students have a voice or a particular cockeyed point of view, and I’m hoping my mentorship will tone and fine-tune their confidence.”

“This workshop is about confidence building,” Wong said. “It’s a … hardcore writing workout, geared to building creative muscle and experimentation with dramatic forms. In other words, they are going to sweat words in and out of class.”

Professor of theatre Randy Kaplan, a long-time friend of Wong, has acted as a liaison between Wong and the department.

“I realized when we were negotiating with her to come and direct that she had gone to teach History of Asian American Theatre at SUNY Albany,” Kaplan said. “I said to my colleagues in the theatre department, ‘Why don’t we ask [Wong] if she’d like to teach?’”

“[Wong], along with Philip Gotanda, are two playwrights that [Asian-American performance ensemble] GENseng has produced more often than any other Asian-American playwright,” Kaplan said.

She added that Wong, Gotanda and other playwrights were very supportive of GENseng in its early years, and Wong had allowed GENseng to produce staged readings of her plays without paying royalties. “[Wong] really was a ‘comrade in arms,’” Kaplan said.