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Drew University Student Works With Award-Winning Playwright

Alyssa Sileo C’22 presents her play to Tony and Pulitzer Prize winner

December 2021 – Over the last month, Drew University student Alyssa Sileo C’22 has taken part in a playwriting bootcamp with Tony and Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Paula Vogel.

The Boot Camp + Bake Off workshop has taken place at the McCarter Theatre on Princeton’s campus. A selection of plays written as part of Vogel’s “bake off” technique of generating new short works will be performed at the theater later this month.

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Meeting a playwriting hero.

For Sileo, a theatre arts major and Spanish and applied performance double minor, working with her playwriting idol was an incredible experience.

“I was exposed to Paula Vogel’s philosophies about playwriting, an opportunity that typically only students in her graduate theatre classes get,” she said.

“She shared her ideas about time, plot, character, even the art of structuring a play on a page. Her writing has been my north star throughout my playwriting journey, and I feel as though I’ve been told the code of how to create stories that create whole new universes. I deeply connected to her values and theatrical ethos.”

Sileo was thrilled to participate in one of Vogel’s “bake offs” – a challenge to write a play in 48 hours or less without editing, and including five special “ingredients.”

“It gave me the chance to find my ‘in’ to write a play that’s been circulating in my mind for a couple of months now!”

“Since McCarter is famous for their production of A Christmas Carol, the bake off was themed around the Dickens story. We were encouraged to think about ghosts, cycles, and holidays. I wrote the first draft of a play about Christmas Eve and generations of Italian women who practice folk magic and struggle against a changing world to be their true selves. After my three-and-a-half hour frenzy of writing, and showing a selection to the participants, I am looking forward to editing the play during this winter break and mounting it as a Play in Process at Drew!”

The experience was one that began with anxious nerves but ended both productive and inspiring.

“Turns out, the play that resulted from Paula’s and the community of writers’ inspirations is one of the most impactful pieces I have ever (and may ever) create, as it honors my ancestors and my own personal journey,” she said.

“On a fangirl level, I got to tell Paula that the play I’ve been working on for almost 10 years is thanks to her, and she signed my favorite play of hers that I read every year on my birthday!”

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