Sex, faith, and unwanted body parts

A girl who hates her right hand, a guy who dies each time he has sex, and a middle-aged man resurrecting his high-school rock band.

Sound familiar? Well, for the twelve students who took the Advanced Screenwriting class at Bellevue College, these were all characters they would get to know very well over the course’s duration.

However, it wasn’t until last Wednesday that these students saw their characters brought to life.

Bellevue College’s Stop Gap Theatre became a home for these characters as professional and student actors portrayed various characters from the screenplays, which were read in front of an audience.

The screenplays were from a variety of genres including comedy, action and psychological thriller.

Laurel Minter, who teaches the Advanced Screenwriting class, orchestrated the event and was eager to be involved, playing characters and narrating.

The reading of Michael Petrucci’s screenplay portrayed two friends about to embark on a road trip.

While one is older, more mature and money-conscious, the other is young, carefree and irresponsible.

Of course, mayhem ensues, and after having their car towed, the unlikely couple is cornered into buying an old, banged-up motorcycle complete with sidecar.

Actors reveled in their characters and the audience descended into fits of laughter as slapstick comedy and quick, witty punch lines were delivered with perfect timing.

Robert Bartlett’s comedy was also well received during the reading.

Entitled “Duderotomy,” Bartlett’s script tells the story of Cal, a middle-aged, married man who reunites his high-school band in an attempt to recapture his youth.

The reading captured the awkward nature of Cal, the complexity of his marriage and the bitter rivalry between his band and “Bob and the Bobadours”, fronted by an ex-boyfriend of Cal’s wife.

Other humorous readings included Nicholas Mirabelli’s story about a man who is too honest to get a date, and Corey Bishop’s “Would be Killers,” the story of two broke friends who contemplate becoming hit men when times are tough.

Mirabelli’s moral tale used slapstick and outrageous characters to get laughs, while Bishop’s story used situational comedy to lighten the tone of his comedic thriller.

Many of the Advanced Screenwriting students set their stories against a modern, relatable backdrop.

However, Taylor Jacobs and Stephen Hanefield set theirs in foreign environments.

Jacobs, whose screenplay is entitled “New Jerusalem,” portrays a utopian setting, free from violence and weapons.

Borrowing heavily from Western themes, the town sees bloodshed once again as a male and female gang are pitted against one another.

While Jacob’s story is set in a sort of parallel dimension, Hanefield’s story is set in the future.

“Soldier Side,” a screen adaptation of the System of A Down song of the same name, follows Sergeant Aaron Helms as he and his fellow soldiers fight against aliens attempting to destroy the human race.

Intense action and dialogue made for a compelling reading, and actors seemed to lose themselves in their complex, psychologically distraught characters.

The psychology of characters was something that Minter emphasized was paramount to a story’s plot.

This was evident in all of the readings, each character being driven by their own fears and passions.

It was the characters in Annelise Rolander and Colin Takasawa’s readings that proved most psychologically complex, though.

Rolander chose to write about Body Identity Integrity Disorder, a psychological condition that causes individuals to want to amputate one of their limbs.

The story portrays the struggle of Dana; a girl who desperately wants her right hand to be amputated.

After her twin sister is killed in a tragic car accident, Dana’s disorder becomes more prevalent and she longs to rid her body of the hand.

In one scene the character wraps her hand in bandages and socks, making a makeshift stump that she admires in a mirror.

Takasawa, writer of “The Worm at the Core,” chose a neurotic protagonist to convey the futility of death.

The story follows Brendan Brecht, an obituary editor, who finds himself talking to a grieving widow for the first time in his career.

Unable to comfort the woman or even resolve her issues with the obituary, Brecht quits his job and becomes obsessed with death, the unknowable manifesting itself as his ill father.

Coleton Seidl’s reading also used death as a theme, along with sex.

The protagonist of Seidl’s story dies during the early scenes of the screenplay after climaxing. What is even more unusual is that the character also dies in subsequent scenes, always after having sex.

This abstract plot depicts the journey of an artist as he struggles to find inspiration to paint, love and even exist.

While some readings were abstract, others were direct.

David Over and Antonio Perez both wrote screenplays that depicted defined characters with clear issues they needed to overcome.

Over’s “Mystify” depicts Abe, the son of a dead, famous magician.

Abe rejects magic as part of his life and has a phobia of water; both of which are a product of his father’s death during a water-related magic trick.

A love interest makes Abe face his fears, and the adolescent accepts his destiny as one of the great magicians of all time.

Perez’s “Learning to Live” portrays a young, wealthy womanizer overcome his drug problem after falling in love and studying abroad.

During the reading, the character was introduced snorting cocaine, abusing prostitutes and shouting obscenities at the police.

The audience seemed to warm to the character, knowing that underneath there was an intelligent and charming man. Perez’s story depicts a tale of maturity through explicit imagery.

After seeing their stories read by such talented actors from the College and the Seattle film industry, writers in the Advanced Screenwriting class have chance to reflect on their character portrayals, choice of dialogue and overall plot.

After the group gets their final pages in to Minter next week, the writers will get together for a well-earned barbecue where they all plan to bring items related to their screenplays.

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