REP presents the world premiere of university professor’s new play


Chisa Hutchinson Seth Freeman (hi res)
Courtesy of Chisa Hutchinson
University professor uses her new play, “From the Author Of,” to give a voice to the voiceless.

Imagine being given a particular set of actors and tasked to write a play around them. The Resident Ensemble Players’ (REP) new play “From the Author Of”, is born from this exact challenge.

This run of “From the Author Of” is the world premiere of the show. It will be performed by an original cast, who provided inspirations for the characters themselves. The author, Chisa Hutchinson, is both an award-winning playwright and a professor of creative writing at the university. Her plays often discuss socially-probing topics and shine a light on underrepresented populations.

Throughout the rehearsal process, Hutchinson would teach her classes at the university before heading over to the theatre to give her input. She assembled her own cast and selected Jade King Carroll, a director that Hutchinson has previously worked with, as the director of the play.

The show follows Meredith Renner (Elizabeth Heflin), a successful author trying to prove her sincerity by taking in a homeless stranger, played by Kathleen Pirkl Tague. It is a story of self-reflection, as well as an exploration of human connection.

“This whole ‘just casting black people in historically white roles,’ that’s lazy,” Hutchinson says. “We need to present some stories actually about people of color.”

Hutchison often writes about topics that she finds confusing, upsetting or unfair, often gaining inspiration from newspaper articles. In class, she speaks to her students about the lack of people of color in theater and the importance of being able to write about race knowledgeably and empathetically.

“I remember that compulsion to represent people that I feel are underrepresented on stage,” Hutchinson says, speaking about her younger days of writing. “It’s so important to see yourself on the TV, or on the stage, to hear your name in a song, to see someone who looks like your mom in a painting. When people feel validated, they feel like they belong in the world.”

“From the Author Of” explores these ideas of class and treatment, as well as telling a story of right versus wrong. One major conflict in the play, is the ethical conflict Renner faces in deciding whether to use the issue of homeless to draw attention and further her own career or think of new ways she can use her art to draw attention and recognition to homelessness.

“I want the play to be a reminder to sort of stay in touch with your humanity,” Hutchinson says. “I want it to highlight the importance of being an empathetic person who gives a sh*t about other people and interacts with them in meaningful ways.”

“From the Author Of” will be performed through Dec. 3 at the Thompson Theatre in the Roselle Center for the Arts. Tickets are 15 dollars for students, and there are opportunities for talkbacks with the cast after select performances.

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