Q&A with Dodd Playwriting Winner, Elise Wien ‘17

by Hallie Huffaker | 7/30/15 7:52pm

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Elise Wien '17 wrote an award-winning play about a plane crash on a remote island.
by Katelyn Jones / The Dartmouth

The Frost and Dodd Playwriting Festival, which starts on July 31st and runs until August 2nd, showcases the three winners of a one-act play competition among students. The competition selects two winners for the Eleanor Frost award and one student for the Lorring Dodd Playwright competition, and all three students receive cash prizes.

Elise Wien ’17, one of the winners of the competition, and writer of “The Rosenbaum Twin Survival Musical Spectacular,” discusses her play.

What is the festival [Frost and Dodd Playwriting Festival] like?

EW: I think it’s open to all undergrads and you submit shows and they are judged. It is Frost and Dodd so you have three winners - two are Frost winners and those are staged readings or you can win the Dodd which is a full production.

How long was the playwriting process?

EW: In the beginning I wrote it in my iPhone notes — it’s totally patchwork in the beginning. I worked on it primarily over the winter.

Tell us a little bit about the play.

EW: So the first idea that I had was, “Wouldn’t it be fun if this brother and sister had to eat their parents when crashed on this island — this weird, parental, cannibalistic thing?”

How long have they been rehearsing?

EW: I think early July was our first read-through. It’s been about a month in the process.

What was the hardest part about writing the play/how did it differ from creative fiction that you’ve written?

EW: I am really worried about exposition. With theater, the reader cannot refer back to previous lines and you cannot describe the setting super well. Trusting the audience is just a big problem. Sure, there are always going to be some people who don’t get it, but you have to trust that they are a smart audience, and they are going to understand what is going on, and you don’t need to be so descriptive.

What has been the most fun part of the last month?

EW: I think probably just sitting in on a couple of tech rehearsals, because there is lighting and there is sound design and there are costumes, and just like seeing this world that I had in my head be on stage. And just totally a shout out to everybody who helped out. The collaborative process is a word that is thrown out there a lot but it is so, so important. You can totally have this in a room with fluorescent lighting and no set and it is one thing, but to have it with all of those elements coming together — I always have this cheesy moment when I am like “Theater is amazing!” When you see those things coming together, I just can’t stop smiling.

What is your next step?

EW: I have a Google Doc of my notes for new ideas. I love that I want to do something more than I want to do my homework. It means that after school, I won’t be an empty husk of a person. And I felt that. So I guess my [next step] is just more shows and learning from this.