This semester, I had the opportunity to develop my senior thesis play thanks to the Penn Plays Fellowship, a playwriting collaboration between the Kelly Writers House and the Theatre Arts Program. I rehearsed the script with three actors over a span of five weeks, receiving guidance from both a professional playwright and a theatre director. Those five weeks transformed my initial 16 page script to a 66-page play.
As an emerging playwright, I don’t always have the opportunity to hear my script while writing. Unlike a novel or a work of page poetry, a play is meant to be performed and felt in a space. Good theatre requires the creativity of multiple people, whose distinct abilities — whether that is acting, set design, directing — each bring life to the story and performance. Penn Plays gave me the privilege to not only work with wonderfully creative people, but also hear feedback from a broad audience through a staged reading. This Fellowship changed the way I perceived my own writing. I finished the fellowship feeling more comfortable with the process of playwriting itself, a grueling, but deeply fulfilling work of constant revision and re-imagination.
The play, tentatively titled Love for Sale, explores the ethics of virtual reality and the way race, sexuality, and intimacy are deeply interwoven in one’s embodied experience. I came up with this idea while doing a Penn Global internship in Israel, where I researched the legal and medical ethics of using immersive virtual reality (IVR) technology for trauma/PTSD patients. This subject became the topic of a research paper and later a larger critical-creative project funded through Wolf Humanities Center, which further provided research for my play. Love for Sale is truly a culmination of multiple experiences and opportunities I received throughout my Penn career.
I am still not done writing — there is always space left for more revisions. However, I feel both prideful and bittersweet toward this play. As graduation awaits, I am feeling satisfied that I’ve been able to use so many of the resources that Penn provided me to pursue my intellectual and creative interests. This play truly embodies all the mentorship, friendship, and joy of learning I’ve developed these past three and a half years. I can’t wait to carry these experiences beyond Penn.