Otterbein Students’ Work Goes from Scriptwriting Class to the Abbey Theater Stage

Posted Jun 21, 2021

By Madelyn Nelson ’23 

Three Otterbein students took their coursework to the live stage thanks to a first-time partnership between the Abbey Theatre of Dublin and Otterbein University. The Abbey Theatre of Dublin will use scripts written by Otterbein students for the theater’s summer production, Otterbein Playwrights CollectivePerformances will be held in-person and livestreamed on June 25 and 26 at 7 p.m., and performances will be available on-demand from June 27-July 3 with one ticket per streaming device. 

The unique opportunity for students comes from Assistant Professor Jeremy Llorence’s intermediate scriptwriting class during the spring 2021 semester. Each student submitted a script in play or screenplay format for their final grade, then Llorence and Abbey Theater of Dublin Theatre Supervisor Joe Bishara selected three scripts for production.  

Associate Professor Jeremy Llorence (left) and Lucy Clark

Llorence is a playwright and English faculty at Otterbein, where he teaches classes in many forms of creative and professional writing. 

The collective consists of three, one-act shows written by Otterbein students. The acts will be workshopped, rehearsed, and performed by Dublin-based teens before taking to center stage in late June.  

The first student whose work was selected is Otterbein senior Whitney Burton. Burton is an English major with concentrations in creative writing and literature studies. They wrote the play Could You Use it in a Sentence? which is about a deceased serial killer who competes in a spelling bee competition to win a chance to choose his own afterlife. 

The second student whose work was chosen is Lucy Clark. Clark is a senior creative writing and film studies student who wrote the screen play, Growing Pains. The screen play tells the story of Ella and how she confronts a reality of friendship and a hidden truth within herself.  

Niah’s play The Girl in Neon will also be displayed on stage this summer. Niah is a junior at Otterbein with double majors in theatre and English with a concentration in creative writing. Her play follows the story of Moxie who stumbles upon a girl named Elise who is desperate for a ride home. Moxie reluctantly complies, but is Elise who she says she is? 

Llorence hopes that his students learn a lot from seeing their work come to life.  

“These are first productions for Whitney, Lucy, and Niah so they will definitely learn about their strengths as they see the audience’s response to their work,” said Llorence. “My hope is that they also learn something from seeing their work in pre-production/rehearsal. For me, the rehearsal room is where I gained better understanding of how a script can inspire good work from good directors, actors, designers, and other artists. I’m excited for my students to have the chance to learn firsthand about how to advocate for their art and collaborate with others to bring their scripts to life.” 

To make this incredible opportunity a reality, Llorence worked alongside Joe Bishara. Bishara has collaborated on over 200 theatrical productions across the United States as an award-winning actor, director, educator, and producer, and currently works as the theater supervisor for the Abbey Theater of Dublin. Bishara is also the founder and managing director of New Albany Youth Theatre, as well as a creative consultant for both Broadway2LA Acting Studio and Evolution Theatre Company. 

Llorence and Bishara first met and collaborated when Bishara directed a workshop reading of Llorence’s play, Voice of the Net.  

“The two of us got along well as artists and sort of hit it off,” said Llorence. “As we were looking for more opportunities to work together, we discovered a shared passion for educating young artists. So, we began putting this thing – The Otterbein Playwrights Collective – together as an opportunity for my student playwrights and the young actors in Joe’s programs to collaborate on a professional quality production.” 

Llorence reflects on his relationship with Bishara and how this first-time partnership will benefit everyone involved. 

“Joe and I have worked well together in the past, and we both share a passion for education in the arts, particularly theatre,” said Llorence. “This is the first year of what we hope will be a continued relationship between the Abbey Theater and Otterbein’s English Department. What’s especially exciting about this year’s scripts is that they are all the first play or screenplay each writer has had produced. I can’t think of a better way to kick off this initiative, which will be an educational experience for the writers, the cast, the directors, as well as Joe and me.” 

Llorence emphasizes the importance of experience and how this opportunity will benefit the students — from building their portfolios to seeing the process from ideas on a piece of paper to real-life actors and actresses performing in front of an audience.  

“These sort of experiences are essential, particularly for writers of plays and screenplays, because these are story forms that demand production,” said Llorence. “General audiences typically don’t read scripts; they want the experience of seeing the story unfold in front of them on a stage or screen. Playwrights and screenwriters need producers and/or funding to make that happen. Like any other job, it can be challenging for new writers to secure support if they have limited experience on paper.” 

These unique opportunities would not be possible without the dedication of Otterbein professors to give their students the experience they need to learn and grow.  

“In the English Department, we build experiences into our classes that show students that studies of literature, film, and writing are not passive endeavors,” explained Llorence. “Sure, creation, analysis, and discussion of art and literature are big parts of what we do, but we love for students to see how these discussions and how their work can impact a community outside of the classroom in big and small ways,” said Llorence.  

“The Otterbein Playwrights Collective is just one example of that.” 

Purchase tickets to view the Otterbein Playwrights Collective in-person, livestream, or on-demand here