In Victorian times, a yellow rose represented jealousy. Today, joy. For each of a host of theater and creative writing students, a yellow rose held proprietarily in the hand meant that he or she had shared a dinner, featuring a rose placesetting, with Obie Award-winning playwright Christopher Durang.
It meant plenty of that joy, too. "Meeting Christopher Durang was one of the highlights of my semester," says sophomore and theater major Stepahnie Bramson.
In the midst of rehearsals for his newest play, Why Torture is Wrong and the People Who Love Them, Durang came to Franklin & Marshall for a class discussion, a dinner with students and faculty, and a public lecture. This special visit was the inaugural lecture of the Lapine Family Visiting Theatre Artist Fund, endowed by Franklin & Marshall alumnus James Lapine ‘79. Lapine also has made his life in theatre, writing Into the Woods, Sunday in the Park With George and other musicals, and collaborating often with Stephen Sondheim.
Now world-famous for such plays as Sister Mary Ignatius Explains it All For You, Durang revealed his vacillation about being a playwright, an uncertainty not quelled until later in his life.
Bramson, on the other hand, foresees no such drama in her professional trajectory.
I want to be a playwright," she says. "And hearing his [Durang's] opinion of my current play, as well as his history as a playwright, motivated me even more than I already was."
Durang sat in on Bramson's playwriting class with Professor Brian Silberman. One could hear, listening in by the open door, part teaching, part reading, and a lot of laughter. "It's an incredible opportunity for young playwrights, not only to have their work heard by a writer such as Chris Durang and to get his feedback in class for a day, but also to have the embodiment of a possibility in front of them--that of a living, working, renowned playwright....This alone is powerful and lasting, says Silberman."
Later at the lecture, Durang spoke in detail about the development of his career and read from his new play. First-year student Caitlin Cieri was pleased and surprised to find Durang also had written one of her favorite musicals, Adrift in Macao: "It just goes to show, you never know what you'll find at events, here!"