Crystal Skillman Awarded Guest Playwright In Residence At Michigan State University
This month, Michigan State University is proud to welcome Crystal Skillman as a 2019 Guest Playwright in Residence for a week-and-a-half-long workshop on her new play Pulp Vérité. This workshop will culminate in two readings free to the public on Thursday, February 21, at 7 p.m. and Sunday, February 24, at 3 p.m. Both readings will take place in Studio 60 at MSU Theatre, 542 Auditorium Road, East Lansing, Michigan.
The workshop will allow both the playwright and the student cast to explore the play on its feet. It will be the first time in the play's developmental process that it has been staged, which will allow Skillman to rewrite in rehearsal, bringing in new pages every day, and give MSU students the invaluable experience of a new play process.
"I am honored and thrilled to have the opportunity to workshop Pulp Vérité as a Guest Artist at MSU. The play is so close, and this last step in the developmental process is an invaluable step to making it as strong as possible," Skillman said. "This play is a timely, but sadly, timeless play. To have students, who are the age of the characters, work on the play will truly be exciting as well. I am so looking forward to working with the talented students at MSU."
Alexis Black and Deric McNish, both Assistant Professors in Michigan State University's Department of Theatre, will co-direct the play. The MSU student cast will include Abbie Cathcart, Zack Debrabander, Elise Jorgensen, Mack Marshall, Abigail Nash, Lilly Niehaus, and Michala Peltz.
As part of her MSU residency, Skillman also will be instructing the playwriting classes of Robert Roznowski, Professor in MSU's Department of Theatre, as a Guest Artist.
In the play, the main character, Joy, is an active member of the filmmaking collective Pulp Vérité when she is captured and held overseas for three years. After being released from captivity, she returns to the United States to reunite with her friends and restart her life. But when the group realizes Joy has gathered them together for the impossible: to bring her sister who is still a captive with ISIS home, their strength as a collective, youthful ideology, and commitment to the cause are shaken to the core.
"This fascinating community of humans that Crystal has created in her beautiful play are complex and full of honest contradictions: wounded and hopeful, empowered and disheartened, artistic and pragmatic, fearful and impudent," McNish said. "They are an actor's dream, and I'm delighted that our students will have the opportunity to work on such rich material hand-in-hand with the person who created it."
Pulp Vérité was part of the Rough Reading Series at the Playwrights Foundation this past fall. Originally a Clifford Odets Ensemble Play Commission, Pulp Vérité was awarded a Fellowship at Town Stages, a 2018 Last Frontier Conference selection, one of the final 30 scripts in consideration for the 2018 PlayPenn Conference, a Finalist for the Bay Area Playwrights Festival, and a Semi-Finalist for the O'Neill National Playwrights Conference.
"As Deric points out, truly amazing art contains polarity. Love and hate, friendship and betrayal, hope and despair, all abound in this play. This creates a playground for the performers at MSU to explore magnetic, dynamic moments, key to their development as artists," Black said. "I have known Crystal Skillman to be a talented writer for years, but this is one of her strongest yet. I can't think of a better piece to bring to life with this hungry group of performers, primed to stretch their craft as they bring lightness to the dark corners, and support the hurt underneath the humor in this powerful work."
Skillman is an accomplished playwright and playwriting professor who teaches playwriting at Pace University, ESPA Primary Stages, The Playwrights Center, and Theater Development Fund. In addition to Pulp Vérité, she is the author of Geek, Cut King Kirby, Rain and Zoe Save the World (2018 EMOS New Play Competition Winner), and Open, which will premiere in All for One Theater and The Tank's season in June 2019. She is the book writer of the musicals Mary and Max (Composer/Lyricist Bobby Cronin) and Postcard American Town (Composer/Lyricist Lynne Shankel).
Some selected awards and residencies Skillman has had include the 2018 Rhinebeck Writers Retreat, 2018 Pace New Musicals, 2018 MUT Award (Critics' Prize), Clifford Odets Ensemble Play Commission, and NY Innovative Theatre Award. Her TV/comics work includes Adventure Time and Eat Fighter, written with Fred Van Lente and published on Webtoon.
"We are so very excited to have Crystal Skillman in residence this February," said Kirk Domer, Chair of the Department of Theatre. "Her personality, passion, and abundant talent will be a great bonus to our students as we workshop on her new play Pulp Vérité. Better yet, longtime Department of Theatre donors, Joan and Jerry Mattson, jumped at the chance to sponsor her residency."