Maggie the Cat may be on stage, but this is not a production of Tennessee Williams’ Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. Maggie is but one of two ghosts from the literary past who come back to help a young woman confront the realities of her husband’s sexual identity and, ultimately, her own in the new play Catatonia by Performing Arts major Dan Robert ’13. He is the recipient of the 2013 Rod Parker Playwriting Fellowship.
Catatonia is part of NewFest 2013, an annual festival of new work produced by Emerson Stage, though the script has been a part of Robert’s life for several years. The production can be seen at the Jackie Liebergott Black Box Theatre, in the Paramount Center, starting Thursday, March 21, through Sunday, March 24. Tickets are $8 for the Emerson community and $12 for the general public.
“I began writing the play with a friend over a Skype chat, completely improvisationally,” said Robert about starting Catatonia his freshman year at Emerson.
He continued to develop Catatonia during two semesters of playwriting with part-time faculty member Andrew Clarke before submitting it to the 2012 Rod Parker Playwriting competition for consideration. The play was selected by Emerson Stage for inclusion in an evening of staged readings designed to give playwrights an opportunity to work with a director and ensemble of actors to continue the development of their work.
Following the 2012 NewFest Readings, Robert continued to work on his script and submitted a new version to this year’s competition. He was selected to receive the Rod Parker Fellowship, which includes a production of the play by Emerson Stage.
In many ways, Catatonia is a coming-of-age tale that Robert feels reflects things he both fears and wants to celebrate. “It’s a play about identity and sexual identity, about the roles we are forced to play in our relationships, and how those are carried out when we’re under pressure to come to terms with who the people we love are.”
Rod Parker ’51 wrote his first play while in school at Emerson. He enjoyed a long career as a producer and writer for a number of hit television sitcoms, including Empty Nest, Gimme a Break!, Maude, and All in the Family before his death in 2011. In 1991, he helped create the Rod Parker Playwriting Award to promote new plays and foster playwriting among undergraduate and graduate students at Emerson.
Other NewFest 2013 activities include the NewFest Readings on Wednesday, March 27, and Thursday, March 28. These readings will feature works of selected student playwrights who submitted scripts to the Rod Parker Playwriting competition. The NewFest Readings are free and do not require a ticket. More details can be found on the NewFest website.