OSWEGO — The Acting Company recently named SUNY Oswego senior Michael Jaquez a winner in a national playwriting competition that spun off two plays coming to Waterman Theatre in March, “Julius Caesar” and “X.”
Actors and alumni of The Acting Company — a repertory troupe that has nurtured such talents as Kevin Kline, Rainn Wilson and Patti LuPone — will present public readings of Jaquez’ play, “I Know a Girl: The Country Opera Love Song,” and those of three other student playwrights March 13 at Lynn Redgrave Theater in New York City.
Jaquez, a dual major in creative writing and in cinema and screen studies from the Jamaica neighborhood of Queens, learned of the honor last semester during his study-abroad trip to Cuba.
“I didn’t know it was a national competition,” said Jaquez. “A friend pointed out, ‘This is a national thing!’ That was kind of — whoa — it was a shock for me.”
Jaquez wrote his play as part of collaboration last spring between playwriting and dramaturgy classes of then-faculty members Krista Knight and Jessica Hester, respectively. Senior theater and cinema and screen studies dual major Emily Stott from Hester’s class assisted Jaquez as dramaturge with historical and other contextual research.
Members of Knight’s class all wrote short plays in response to The Acting Company’s call for submissions on the theme of assassination, inspired by either or both of the plays “Julius Caesar” by William Shakespeare and “X” by contemporary playwright Marcus Gardley. As the culmination of a three-year collaboration with SUNY Oswego and other colleges and high schools around the nation, The Acting Company will present “Julius Caesar” and “X” on consecutive days, March 27 and 28, at Tyler Hall’s Waterman Theatre.
The Acting Company’s Ian Belknap, director of “X,” a play about slain Civil Rights leader Malcolm X, and dramaturge Mark Bly participated in the classes. Company members will be among those assisting the winning playwrights.
For the competition, Jaquez chose to reimagine the 1981 near-fatal shooting of then-President Ronald Reagan, driven by John Hinckley Jr.’s obsession with the actress Jodie Foster. Loony songs, absurd situations and political allusions fuel the script.
“I kept coming back to this (attempted assassination). The story sounded like a play itself,” Jaquez said. ” It had all the dramatic aspects and great characters.”
Knight, currently a Lila Acheson Wallace Playwright Fellow at Juilliard, said, “The winning play beautifully demonstrates the collaborative process between dramaturge and playwright.”
As a winning playwright, Jaquez will receive notes from the judging process, consult with the director and then travel to New York for rehearsal and staged reading of his script. Following the event, the student playwrights will be guests at a networking reception, allowing them to meet and interact with friends, supporters and professional colleagues of the company.
The Acting Company has been in touch with Jaquez to offer collaborative assistance as the staged reading approaches, and Knight intends to assist, too.
“I have been rewriting and editing furiously,” Jaquez said. “That’s my focus now — making sure it’s crisp.”
Jaquez also helped The Acting Company, participating in a workshop last year mentored by Belknap and Gardley as part of the nationwide collaborative process of play development for Gardley’s “X: Or, Betty Shabazz v. the Nation.”
Tickets for “Julius Caesar” and “X” are available at all SUNY Oswego box offices, online at tickets.oswego.edu or by calling 315-312-2141.