Creative Outlets at PHC: Playwriting and Acting

Posted by Evie Fordham on 3/31/17 9:44 AM

Patrick Henry College theatre

No matter their major, from Political Theory to Literature, PHC students find ways to balance the rigors of term papers, tests, and internships with finding creative outlets on and around campus. Seniors Luke Thomas and Caitlin Coulter found theatre to be a great way to express themselves and relieve stress during their four years at PHCand they have forged some great friendships in the process.

“Acting allows me to put aside everything that may be happening on campus and become someone else, the perfect version of someone else,” Caitlin said. “When do you get an opportunity to know that you've been the best person you could be?”

Luke has acted in many productions, including Arsenic and Old Lace, Macbeth, and Henry V, put on by PHC’s student-run drama club Eden Troupe. He finds being behind the scenes just as rewarding as up on stage, though. Luke will direct his original play No Brains for Dinner in April. He started writing it his junior year.

Luke Thomas No Brains for Dinner play
Luke with props for his original play  No Brains for Dinner

“Writing it was an ‘every spare moment’ kind of thing,” Luke said. “It was something that I really enjoyed that I could do that wasn't school. I wrote a lot during breaks… The process of discovering the characters and the plot as I was writing was something that is always a joy.”

No Brains for Dinner is an  Edwardian-era, zombie-themed play. It centers on a young, aspiring aristocrat, Oscar Norton, played by senior Andrew Kelly. Norton deals with the trouble of having a brother with a “condition” as he attempts to enter into society.

“I wrote a few plays and screenplays while at PHC,” Luke said. “I'm not sure how many of them are good, but I found writing creatively to be something that I could work on and take my mind off the more burdensome projects I had ahead of me.”

Luke Thomas as "Teddy Roosevelt" Brewster in Eden Troupe's Arsenic and Old Lace

Luke as "Teddy Roosevelt" Brewster in Eden Troupe's Arsenic and Old Lace

A stint as an Eden Troupe producer his sophomore year prepared Luke for directing No Brains for Dinner.

“It was crazy juggling scheduling, events, props work and more, but it really prepared me for the constant job of being in the director’s chair for this production,” he said.

Writing the play felt more like discovery than creating to Luke.

“Whenever I sit down to write, I am usually surprised at connections made from act one to act three and with characters that seem to speak for themselves,” he said. “It makes you think that the creative process engages you in something that has been prepared for you long beforehand.”

Whether it is his own original play or Shakespeare, Luke loves being onstage.

“There is something in common with all of them, a special kind of change from rehearsals to opening night,” he said. “Everything just comes together, and the audience instills a magic and gravity to what is happening on stage.”

Caitlin will star in two productions her final semester, Eden Troupe’s Little Women and the premiere of No Brains for Dinner.

“My role in No Brains for Dinner is an extremely sweet girl who falls in love with a not-so-sweet man,” she said. “Her bildungsroman, if you will, is one of my favorite parts about her character. Getting to perform this play alongside my friends is a perfect way to end my collegiate acting career.”

Caitlin Coulter as Lady Macbeth in Eden Troupe's Macbeth

Caitlin as Lady Macbeth in Eden Troupe's Macbeth

Caitlin loves finding new ways to exercise her creativity and create something she can be proud of. She enjoys wood burning, making collages, and singing when she is not getting into character for a stage or a mock trial character.

“Just messing around with chords on the piano and singing along is such a release for me,” she said.

Her role as Aunt March in Eden Troupe’s musical Little Women has been especially fun.

“She is such a sarcastic and witty character,” Caitlin said. “It's fun to pretend that I could be just as savage and adorable as she is.”

One of her favorite things about theatre is the camaraderie.

“Some of my favorite memories with Eden Troupe are from the green room,” she said. “Everyone is keyed up and laid back at the same time and the ensuing antics are memorable, to say the least.”

Caitlin Coulter as Elaine in Eden Troupe's Arsenic and Old Lace
Caitlin as Elaine in Eden Troupe's Arsenic and Old Lace

Setting aside time to write, act, or sing can be difficult in college, but it is worth it, Luke said.

“You can definitely do it!” he said. “Creativity in the midst of all of the ideas you are dealing with from classes and otherwise can help work them out and solidify them on the page and in your head. No Brains for Dinner reflects a lot of what I was learning as a sophomore. In a lot of ways, it isn't really juggling at all. Creativity is very much a labor of love.”


 This story is part of a LearnPHC series about student creativity at PHC.

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