A senior IT analyst, call center operator and their fearless mentor walk into a playhouse on a Thursday night. This is not the start of a joke, but instead the beginning of two stories.
One tale involves a romantic letter that leads to a wedding gone horribly wrong. The other, a story of robots converting humans digitally into the cloud. Welcome to the Fort Mill Community Playhouse, where anything can happen.
IT analyst Tom Russell and call center operator Barbie Litschert may work their respective jobs by day, but when the workday ends, they put on their writers’ hats. Their leader is playwright and director Erica Owens at the Fort Mill Community Playhouse. The three of them, plus fellow student Laurie Helms, gathered weekly over the holidays for a playwriting workshop.
The Playhouse is undergoing a $1 million capital campaign for a new, larger home. As of press time, a little more than $300,000 has been raised. Classes are a recent addition to the Playhouse, with the first ones rolling out in 2017.
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This particular class had only three students, so the small Playhouse was sufficient.
“With the current space, we only have one small room in which we are able to hold classes,” Owens said. “So we either meet there, or have to schedule around shows and rehearsals if we want to use the stage space.”
With a larger space, the potential for a variety of classes would only increase, Owens said. Several classes will be able to be held simultaneously, with class offerings expanded to include acting, writing and video production.
“I am fascinated with all aspects from writing to seeing the written word come alive on stage or screen,” she said. “I can’t get enough of it and I don’t feel truly alive if I’m not somehow creating something.”
Spring classes will begin March 5 at the Playhouse, with TV writing, playwriting, screenwriting and rewriting classes being offered.
Litschert discovered FMCP eight years ago after attending her first play. She drove from South Charlotte each week for the playwriting class, which she called a new and different challenge.
“This class is a nice break from real life — but allows me to incorporate real-life scenarios into my writings,” she said. “It gives me energy in my life.”
Litschert’s play centered around a rehearsal dinner in which the bride comes across a very unfortunate love letter written by the groom, which she decides to read aloud. The dramatic situation unfolds in front of the entire wedding party as the groom grows increasingly uncomfortable. The groom pleads with the bride to talk privately.
“We sure can,” the bride says in the script. “Just as soon as I finish this letter!”
Russell also made the drive each week from Charlotte to attend the playwriting classes. He is on the drama team at Good Shepherd Church in Charlotte, where he acts and edits scripts. He’s a musician, playing keyboard, wind instruments and percussion at the church.
“All of that provides a creative outlet that keeps me sane while working in a highly analytical occupation,” he said.
Russell’s play might make one question owning an Amazon Alexa or a Google Home device. In his story, the human race has to decide whether to stay on Earth or make a transition to the Cloud. Family members are torn apart as some decide to stay while others feel the call to go.
“Everybody’s gone! Most of my friends are online now. Even Jess’s family did it. Face it — the whole city’s been uploaded,” the teenage daughter character says in his script.
Playwriting gave Russell the tools to build structure for his ideas, he said.
“I knew what I wanted, but not how to get there effectively.”
As for Owens, she is a director, actor and playwright who said teaching was the perfect next step for her.
“Teaching and directing are two very different jobs, but they do share a similar skill set,” Owens said.
“As a good teacher and director, you are tasked with observing and drawing out potential. You want to help the student or actor to utilize their talents and grow those abilities. There is a lot of research and planning that goes into both jobs, and both are very rewarding.”
Litschert said she has always enjoyed writing, and the Playhouse classes helped give her structure as well as socialization with other writers.
“Who knows?” Litschert said. “Maybe I’ll take a directing class, too.”
Want to take a class?
Upcoming classes at Fort Mill Community Playhouse:
7-9 p.m. Wednesdays
Mar 21, 28, Apr 11, 25, May 9, 23
7-9 p.m. Mondays
Mar 5, 19, Apr 2, 16, May 7, 21
7-9 p.m. Sundays
Mar 18, 25, Apr 8, 22, May 6, 20
The Rewriting Process
10-12 p.m. Saturdays
Mar 10, 24, Apr 7, 21, May 5, 19
Classes will be held at Fort Mill Community Playhouse at 220 Main St. under Instructor Erica Owens.
Classes are for ages 15 and older. Each set of classes includes six sessions for $150.
Register via email at email@example.com or by calling 803-548-8102.
Want to see a play?
The Savannah Sipping Society will be performed in March at The Fort Mill Community Playhouse, 220 Main St.
7:30 p.m. March 2, 3, 9, 10, 16, 17
3 p.m. March 4, 11, 18
Adults $18 Student $13
Tickets can be purchased at Tega Cay Pharmacy or The Crossings On Main (cash or check)
WANT TO DONATE?
Fort Mill Community Playhouse is nonprofit, so donations are tax deductible. Donors have five years to pay pledge. In addition to one-time or annual pledges, opportunities include naming rights, ranging from a $250 donation that includes a name on a chair to a $250,000 donation that includes a name on the building.
Donate online: fortmillcommunityplayhouse.org/donations.php
Mail your donation:
PO Box 354
Fort Mill, SC 29716
Questions: Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; 803-548-8102