Two years ago, Francis Marion University’s (FMU) V-Week committee sponsored The 4Plays, an evening of short, student-written plays dealing with sexual health and identity. They were so successful and well-attended that they were reprised in 2013 and were again well-received. The 4Plays are now a permanent part of FMU’s February sex and gender awareness celebration.
This year, V-Week, whose centerpiece is a production of Eve Ensler’s play The Vagina Monologues, will be called G-Week, or Gender Week, the goals of which will be largely the same except that issues pertaining to maleness and transsexuality will be included in the conversation.
According to Dr. Jon Tuttle, who co-coordinates script submissions, students are encouraged to write short plays that deal frankly and candidly with topics ranging from sexually-transmitted diseases and pregnancy to recreational sex and fetishism.
“The last two years, we had standing-room-only audiences that were very receptive, very enthusiastic,” Tuttle said. “By that I mean some students were appalled, some gasped and some giggled, but in the end everybody had something to talk about.”
Tuttle and his co-coordinator, Tammy Ivins, a reference librarian in Rogers Library, are looking for 10 to 15-minute plays “that speak to the students about important issues, but in a language the students can enjoy and appreciate.”
“We’re not looking for documentaries or informational brochures. We want to hear the students’ voices, their stories or concerns. These plays can be funny, profane, graphic, tragic, embarrassing – anything that’s appropriate to their purpose, which is to raise awareness among the student body about the students’ bodies,” Ivins and Tuttle said.
Ideally, each 4Play will deal with a separate issue pertaining to sexual or mental health.
All FMU students, and not just those in Creative Writing or Theatre courses, are invited to submit plays.
“If we receive too many plays, we’ll of course have to choose the best ones, but that’s a happy problem to have,” Tuttle said.
Before beginning their plays, Tuttle advises interested students to meet with him or Ivins.
“We’d like to meet with students as soon as possible to get a sense of what they want to write about,” Tuttle said. “We’ll have some guidelines printed up for those who want such a thing, and certainly, we don’t want a play to transmit any misinformation.”
The priority deadline for script submissions is Jan. 23, after which the next phase of the program – planning the staged readings – can begin.
Tuttle said that a staged reading is not a full dramatic production but a presentation of a play as readers’ theatre. “The idea is to allow an audience to hear the play,” Tuttle said. “Actors will sit and read the lines, script in hand. There may be some blocking or movement, but not much. The emphasis will be on the words.”
Each reading will feature student actors and may be directed, if he or she desires, by the writer.
The plays can also be written by multiple students. “If two or more students want to undertake a play together, that’s great. They might in fact write it for themselves and act in it next spring,” Tuttle advised.
For more information or to receive a set of guidelines, contact Jon Tuttle in the English Depart, Founders Hall 146, or at firstname.lastname@example.org, or Tammy Ivins at email@example.com.