BCC drama teacher Dennis Schebetta will take his students and their play to a festival in Moscow, Idaho, where it will be judged for the David Mark Cohen National Playwriting Award.
By Morgan Hodder.
“7 Minutes to Midnight,” written and directed by BCC drama teacher Dennis Schebetta is a finalist for the David Mark Cohen National Playwriting Award. It has also been selected to perform at the Regional Festival in Moscow, Idaho to represent Region vii in the Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival.
Schebetta said he was a finalist for the David Mark Cohen award a few years ago for a play he wrote called “OBSCURA.”
“This time it is even more of a great honor as the script/text of the play itself is not as straightforward as traditional dourth wall realism plays. There is much more movement and songs and the performance depends on much of the work that the ensemble brings to it. So to be honored with this regional selection and being able to present it at the festival is quite special as it validates the wonderful work that all of us, including the students have done on it.” said Schebetta.
“7 minutes to midnight” underwent a unique creative process, as Schebetta wrote it with his drama class.
Nate Jensen, who was in that class and starred in “7 minutes” said about the experience “it was definitely exciting and inspiring, and draining. Schebetta is very intelligent, and really creative. He has very crazy ideas and concepts. He had us do some strange tasks. We rehearsed for months and months and half the time we were rewriting the script and formulating new ideas. We were always wondering, how will this affect the audience?”
Schebetta said he loved collaborating with the students, as he loves collaborating with directors and actors and designers and anyone else in the theater. The reason he writes plays instead of novels or screenplays is because he loves the interactive nature of theater, from rehearsals to the live aspect of performance.
He could not have written this show alone at his desk as he has written other plays. “Well, I could’ve, but it would’ve taken me much longer and been an entirely different show.” said Schebetta. Rarely does a playwright get to take ideas in and do workshops and improvisations with actors in the room. Many of the ideas came out of the work Schebetta and the “7 minutes” crew did in rehearsals.
For instance, said Schebetta, using the golf club and the tennis rackets came out of some of the Kronos storytelling work that they did, and that ended up being used in the storyline of the atomic bomb.
The students were able to create characters and bring in material in a way that more traditional theatre won’t allow and Schebetta said he thinks they really enjoyed that participation. When he found out that Chris likes to rap, Schebetta asked him if they could work in the Flobots song “No Handlebars” somewhere. They found a great place for it during the “Nightmare” monologue and it worked really well. “And it was so great watching him do something he loves to do and is quite powerful.”
Tammis Doyle, chair of the drama department said working with Schebetta was great. “He’s great with students, great as a playwright, and wrote and directed very well.” Doyle said she gives Schebetta her biggest compliment when she said “I trust him with our greatest resource, our students.”
Jensen said he is very nervous about performing in Moscow, since the production will be deprived of its theatrical elements. They won’t get any stage or lighting elements, the performance will depend a lot more on acting, said Jensen.
On the future of “7 minutes,” Schebetta said “I would love to be able to work more on this show, but I’m not sure when and where I might get that opportunity. I would also be welcome for others to take it on for themselves, take it apart, make it anew for a new ensemble. For now, the show will rest for a bit till it’s time to pick it up again, but I would be hesitant to work on it with a different ensemble as that would change the dynamics and much about what works in the piece.”