Editor’s note: This article was initially published in The Daily Gazette, Swarthmore’s online, daily newspaper founded in Fall 1996. As of Fall 2018, the DG has merged with The Phoenix. See the about page to read more about the DG.
This spring, Swarthmore’s theater department is welcoming the award winning playwright Adriano Shaplin to teach the playwriting workshop. Shaplin, whose writing was described by Tony Kushner, author of “Angels in America” and the book for “Caroline, or Change,” as “new and exhilarating,” has had contact with Swarthmore College in the past, having worked with the Pig Iron Theatre Company on the original production “Hell Meets Henry Halfway,” which was cited at the OBIE awards and earned a Barrymore Award for best original score.
Shaplin, who has been writing plays since the age of 14, one year after seeing his first play, “Oleanna” by David Mamet, feels that “writing plays is about using your imagination, taking risks, and learning to express yourself through theater.” In his case, Shaplin feels strongly that writers need to imitate other writers initially as “one of the best ways to discover your own voice.” Over the course of the semester, therefore, Shaplin will incorporate readings from plays since 1850 with a special focus on Realism and Expressionism. “We will learn how to read plays, how to love plays, and most importantly, how to write plays.”
“A playwright,” says Shaplin, “needs to be funny, smart, and uncompromising.” This description applies well to Shaplin himself. Professor Allen Kuharski, Chair of Swarthmore’s Theater Department, describes Chaplin as “very engaging and provocative… funny, unpretentious, but lucid and quite eloquent about his own work and theater in general. As a teacher, Adriano brings to Swarthmore his own background at a small liberal arts college (Sarah Lawrence) as well as several years as a graduate student and instructor in theater and performance studies at Berkeley.”
Regarding teaching at Swarthmore, Shaplin feels that “what is most exciting about the students at Swarthmore is that they represent the total package; they are intellectual, artistic, politically-minded, and self-motivated.” The workshop environment Shaplin hopes to create will be “noisy [and] noncompetitive… where it is easy to be honest and hard to be bored.” Shaplin recommends the class to “any hard-working student with strong opinions and a sincere desire to express themselves creatively.”