University of Cincinnati, CCM Acting Program

Passionate. Perceptive. Punctual.

Sarah Durhan

Sarah Durham

Throw in a big pinch of empathy and talent and that describes the students I met in May of 2016 at the Summer Playwrights Workshop, part of University of Cincinnati’s College-Conservatory of Music, Acting Program.

The 18 student actors and 13 writers spent six intensive days and nights in the throes of creativity, written expression and man’s—and woman’s— search for meaning. Students, much to my surprise, did not get college credit, or a stipend, or anything else for that matter. They participated for the chance to work in real time with writers who were not in their own bedroom, or home office, or basement—hidden, closeted away. They were living, breathing writers who seemingly create something from nothing to tell a story—that may resonate. On the Stage.

Students offered insights into the writing of the playwrights and playwrights embraced the chance to work directly with performers. The age gap didn’t matter. We were all people with something to say in our own way. All the playwrights were impressed by the college “kids” who we all came to respect as young adults interested in the world and eager to move on in the world!

I had been writing POETRY GIRL as a piece of YA Fiction since August of 2014. Now, I imagined that one of the U.C. students could be Annie’s voice and others could assume the roles of other characters in the story. Now, I saw POETRY GIRL as a “script-book.

Sarah Durham was one of those actors who exhibited poise, maturity and sensitivity in every role she performed in that summer workshop. Sarah had just completed her freshman year. I asked her to take on the role of “Annie Blankenship.” In many ways, Sarah took on the role of “producer/casting director.” She recruited other sophomores to read the roles in POETRY GIRL and scheduled rehearsals.

I didn’t finish writing POETRY GIRL until September of 2016. U.C. students recorded the “poem-play,” what my friend, former colleague and mentor Mary Pierce Brosmer called it, in late November and early December of 2016. All the young women in the cast read the poems in POETRY GIRL. Jacqueline Daaleman as “Kelly Kaufman,” Annie’s best friend and next door neighbor, Madeleine Page-Schmit and Gabriella DiVincenza assumed various female roles and along with Sarah read the poems with feeling and understanding. As does Graham Rogers as he reads “Kildee,” Annie’s father’s sweet poem at the end of POETRY GIRL. Although Jabari Carter doesn’t have any poems to read, he contributes as other male voices.

Thank you, all. It was a privilege to work with you and witness the excitement you have for the craft. I hope people tell other people far and wide about POETRY GIRL and our efforts contribute to your success and others in the Acting Program.

With love,

Nancy J.

Copyright 2017 by N.J. Jones