The Catholic University of America

Jan. 30, 2015

Student-Written Plays to Premiere at Hartke Theatre

  Actors Natasha Gallop, Kiernan McGowan and Latia Stokes rehearse a scene from Conversations I've Never Had, by M.F.A. playwriting candidate Kathleen Burke.

Knights and sword fights, fantastical characters, and real-life relationship struggles are just a few of the topics to be explored on stage as two original student-written plays premiere at Hartke Theatre in February.

Conversations I’ve Never Had
, by M.F.A. playwriting candidate Kathleen Burke, will be performed Feb. 14, 18, and 20, at 7:30 p.m., and Feb. 15 and 21, at 2 p.m. The Mage Knights of Eternal Light, by M.F.A. playwriting candidate Amanda Zeitler, will be performed Feb. 13, 19, and 21, at 7:30 p.m., and Feb. 14 and 22, at 2 p.m. Performances will take place at Hartke Theatre, 3801 Harewood Road, N.E., Washington, D.C.

Conversations I’ve Never Had centers around the seemingly happy life of newlywed couple Ruth and Brad, who face marital problems after a visit from a mysterious stranger from Ruth’s past. At the same time, Ruth, a playwright, is putting together a play of her own, complete with its own cast of outlandish characters.

“It’s kind of a play within a play,” said Burke. “I would describe my play as a drama and Ruth’s play as a comedy.”

Burke, who is originally from Alamo, Calif., has been interested in writing and theatre for most of her life. She took her first playwriting class when she was 10 years old. Before enrolling at CUA, she graduated from Drew University in New Jersey, where she studied creative writing and acting. Conversations I’ve Never Had will be the fifth play she has written to be produced.

“What I enjoy most about playwriting is the other people,” Burke said. “I really like writing something and knowing I’m going to bring it in and watch people perform it.”

Putting together this play, her thesis, has helped her learn about her writing process, Burke said.
“I really tried to work on it every day or almost every day really consistently,” she said. “This is the closest I’ve ever gotten to working how I wanted to work.”

Burke said it’s also been beneficial to receive input from her cast and director Mary Resing.

“I’m learning so much from their ideas and what they’re bringing to the table,” she said.

M.F.A. acting candidates Teresa Catherine McClernon and Grant Cloyd rehearse a fight scene with choreographer Casey Kaleba (center) during a rehearsal for The Mage Knights of Eternal Light.  

For The Mage Knights of Eternal Light, Zeitler drew inspiration from fantasy fiction that she enjoys reading — book series like The Lord of the Rings, and Harry Potter. The play tells the story of Dawn, a teenage girl who becomes emotionally invested in a fantasy book series as a way of coping with her father’s recent death. Complications ensue when the book characters begin coming to life.

“In the play there are a lot of references to other fantasy books,” Zeitler said. “In the first five pages, there’s a Game of Thrones reference.”

Though her play has many comedic elements, it also deals with themes of grief and addiction, Zeitler said.

“The central character, Dawn, is constantly arguing with the people in her life and you can see those relationships falling apart,” Zeitler said. “The play is really about the journey of this one teenage girl to find a healthy way to deal with the death of her father.”

Zeitler has been working on this play for the past two years. Now, with the help of her cast and director Kate Bryer, she is enjoying watching her work come to life in a new way.

“There are parts of the play that are really silly and melodramatic, but it’s been really great to see everyone delving in and taking it seriously,” Zeitler said. “It’s been really validating as an artist and a writer to hear them say that they enjoy working on this piece.”

Because the subject matter of her play pertains specifically to teenagers, the drama department will hold a special matinee performance and discussion for local high school students.

“The best thing for them would be to walk away feeling like they know these characters,” Zeitler said. “I would hope anyone would come see it and enjoy it, but this was specifically written with teenagers in mind, so it will be good to see what they think about it.”

Tickets are $15 for adults; $10 for senior citizens, students, CUA alumni, faculty, and staff; and $5 for CUA students. For more information or to buy tickets, call 202-319-4000 or go to




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