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.”
Readings of the play will be at 7 p.m. on Thursday and 3 p.m. on Sunday at the MSU Auditorium.
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,” Skillman said. “The play is so close and this last step in the developmental process is an invaluable step to making it as strong as possible. 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 the Department of Theatre, will co-direct the play. The 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 the 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.
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 community of humans that Crystal has created in her play is 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.”
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” 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” and “Postcard American Town.”
“We are so very excited to have Crystal Skillman in residence,” said Kirk Domer, chairperson 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 Mattso, jumped at the chance to sponsor her residency.”