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Familial Joy, Frustration Inspired Minigan’s New Play

Poster of Queen of Sad Mischance
Affiliated Faculty member John Minigan’s play Queen of Sad Mischance will be streamed February 12.

As a Performing Arts affiliated faculty member, John Minigan utilizes his 31 years as a high school drama teacher to lead student teaching practicums for Emersonians working in middle and high schools to become certified public school teachers.

Similar to training teachers-to-be, his newest play, Queen of Sad Mischance, is also serving as a learning experience for a young theatre maker. The play will be streamed as part of the Theater Resources Unlimited (TRU) New Play Virtual Reading Series on February 12, and then it will be available to stream for four days.

John Minigan in front of some ruins
John Minigan (Photo courtesy Mariah Minigan)

“[TRU] is an interesting group. Their mission is to work with fledgling producers, mostly on new plays,” said Minigan. New York-based TRU also offers courses on how to be a producer, and after a call for scripts, and talking with six producers, Minigan became aligned with producer Max Needle, and director Sharifa Williams.

True to TRU’s mission, the first streaming is followed by a talkback, which is less about the play, and more about what and how producers think, and the next steps to move it to become a production. This will benefit young producers like Needle.

“It’s my most awarded unproduced play,” joked Minigan, who said the streaming version was recorded weeks before the airing. “It’s received regional and national recognition.”

The play won the 2022 Judith Royer Award for Excellence in Playwriting from The Kennedy Center/Association for Theatre in Higher Education, and the 2022 Louise Wigglesworth Excellence in Playwriting Award. Despite that recognition, the play remains unattached to a a production company.

“It is the story of Kym, who is an ambitious biracial college senior who envisions herself to have a future in academia,” said Minigan. “She gets a work study gig working for a professor at a school very much like Wellesley College to assist Beverly in her magnum opus about Shakespeare’s Queen Margaret.”

But the professor has early onset Alzheimer’s and Kym has to navigate that issue while dealing with systemic racism in theatre education.

“It’s about the paths we see for ourselves because that’s the route we were encouraged to follow, or talked about in the past, or what we think we want,” said Minigan. “Or do we move past those ideas or goals imposed by society to figure out our actual goals?”

Mariah Minigan, John Minigan, Lynn Frederiksen, Colin Minigan
Left to right: Mariah Minigan, John Minigan, Lynn Frederiksen, Colin Minigan.

The play was inspired by his wife and daughter’s experiences, and his son, Colin, a music composition PhD candidate at UC-Davis, composed the music for the play.

“That was fun to work on a project together. The producer and director said we needed a composer, I sent clips of his work, and they liked it,” said Minigan.

The inspirations for the play are not as joyful for his family.

“My wife and daughter are both biracial and had various encounters with systemic racism during their courses in academia,” said Minigan.

While in college, their daughter worked with professor who had sustained a brain injury and was trying to finish a book she had started writing, Minigan said.

“Our daughter came home from working with the professor and said the professor couldn’t write the book, and that’s not why she was going there.” She decided not to pursue a career in academia.

“Seeing her go through that, I saw there was a story there that’s important to tell,” said Minigan. “It gave me a way to write about Queen Margaret, which I’ve been wanting to do for years. This is my Queen Margaret’s play. It’s really about how do you define the path or not define the path.”

Minigan said his goal for the play is to have it performed locally, and hopes the streamed reading will get the attention of producers.

“This play feels closest to my heart. It grows out of experiences that my wife and daughter had,” said Minigan.

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