sponsored by: jeanne duncan
"Did you hear correctly? You’re kinda freaking me out…"
Elizabeth Shannon is a Maryland-based writer and a current senior. She is an apprentice at the Maryland Ensemble Theatre (MET), as well as a member of the Theatre Focus in the Academy for the Fine Arts. Her play, WHAT ARE YOU HIDING?, which she co-wrote with Morgan Southwell, was a winner of Baltimore Centerstage’s Young Playwright’s Festival, and a finalist in The Secret Theatre’s Act One: One Act Festival, as well as part of the live-streamed reading series, THE FUTURE WAS NOW, by Quarantined Theatre Company, which can be found on YouTube. Her play, SMOKE, has also been published through Scripts For Stage, and had a Zoom performance with University of Texas El Paso’s student organization, Ensemble. Her play, NUCLEAR is a current winner of The Blank Theatre’s 28th Annual Young Playwrights Festival.
Five high school students have grown up in the era of lockdowns and active shooter drills. When a rumor about a school shooter begins to circulate, Kiersa and her friends must decide what they should do to protect their classmates before it is too late.
Get to Know Elizabeth
When did you start writing? What/who are some of the major influences on your writing?
I’ve loved writing for as long as I can remember, but the first time I started writing plays was for an assignment in a theatre class at school. We wrote in groups to submit to a festival in Baltimore and I had a great experience, and my group actually was a winner of the festival! I continued submitting that play to several other festivals, and after it was accepted to one in New York City, I decided to try writing something new (and I haven’t stopped since). Being an actor first, I definitely think acting influences my writing - I tend to write characters that I personally would love to play.
How did you come to write your #ENOUGH play? Given that there are many dimensions to the issue of gun violence, what aspect did you focus on and why?
I wrote this play pulling partially from something that happened in my biology class as a sophomore. From the moment I read the prompt, I knew I wanted to write about a “false alarm” in order to showcase how ingrained gun violence (and the fear of it) is in us, no matter where we are, even when there is no gun or shooting and everything works out well.
What other issues or subjects do you care deeply about that you wish you saw on stage more? Why is this issue important for you?
Oh, so many things... to start, I wish I saw more representation, including more diversity in race, social status, sexual orientation, gender, and religion, both in characters, the actors portraying them, and everyone else involved in the writing and production. And I want that representation to be accurate, well-written, and not stereotypical or prejudiced. I also would like to see a lot more work and media regarding reproductive rights and abortion. I feel like that topic is so stigmatized, and especially in the world we are living in this very day where many people are fearing for their rights and autonomy, it is so important to have public discussions about it through art.
If you could write a play or story that represented the future you want to be a part of, what would it look like?
I think it would involve, as I said above, lots more diversity and acceptance without prejudice. I also would love to focus on characters who say harmful things and then listen when someone corrects them and improve. This may seem so basic, but I feel like in society today, everyone’s first instinct is to defend themselves (and I can partially see why, given “cancel culture”), rather than listen to the person trying to inform them, and I see that defensiveness in a lot of characters as well. It makes for more dynamic characters to see them grow, and more relatable as they have clear faults and missteps, but is also such an important message for the audience. My favorite TV show, “Skam”, does this, and watching it is so refreshing; characters would say awful things, another character would call them out, and they would learn. I would love to write something in which people are more open-minded and receptive to this, as ultimately it’s better to say something wrong and learn why it’s wrong than to keep it to yourself but continue to believe the harmful idea.
What are some of your favorite plays?
My favorite play is Indecent by Paula Vogel! I also love Epic Proportions, Distracted, Sweat, Admissions, and Angels in America.
What will your next play be about?
I’m not sure yet, I have a few ideas but they aren’t very developed. Maybe something about a family in which the members are various religions visiting each other in December, or maybe a comedy about the Greek Gods set in a 1950s sock hop!