Local playwriting festival takes the stage

Hadassa Friesen, Caroline Miller and Rylee Weishaupt rehearse “Death by a Thousand Papercuts” for Pen to Paper to Performance.

For the first time since 2019, Hesston College will present their local playwriting showcase, Pen to Paper to Performance, on April 26 and 27 at 7 p.m. in the Keim Center Black Box Theater. Nine ten-minute plays were chosen from dozens of submissions to be produced and performed by the Hesston College Theatre Department.

“I love this event because it not only showcases the talent of our department and campus, but also the creativity in our communities,” says Rachel Jantzi, director of theater at Hesston College and creator of Pen to Paper to Performance.

The winning playwrights hail from communities like McPherson and Wichita to Hesston’s own campus. Jantzi created this festival as a way to encourage people who are curious about playwriting to give it a try. She enjoys seeing the different writing styles of the playwrights and how they translate to an onstage production.

“It’s fun to see how the playwrights react to seeing their ideas and dialogue spring to life,” explains Jantzi. “It takes a lot of courage to trust others to take what you wrote and move it from the page to the stage, but this process – one that promotes trust, vulnerability and collaboration – is what theatre allows and encourages.”

With a wide variety of genres and subject matter, here are this year’s winning submissions:

  • Check by Cassie Balzer, Wichita, Kan.
  • Bad Episode by Skye Colaw, McPherson, Kan.
  • Tooter-Bug by Travis Duerksen, Goessel, Kan.
  • Death by a Thousand Papercuts by Michele Hershberger, Hesston, Kan.
  • Butter Woman by Patricia Middleton, Topeka, Kan.
  • Trapped by Sam Setiawan ’24 (Hesston College student), Goshen, Ind.
  • Writer’s Block by Mitch Stutzman, Hesston, Kan.
  • A Fine Day for a Felony by Caitlin Waits, Winfield, Kan.
  • The Menno Simons House for Wayward Christians by Matt Lehman Wiens, McPherson, Kan.

An ensemble of 16 actors will portray various roles in the performances with each actor appearing in at least two of the shows. The ensemble includes Hesston College students Meg Beyer, Josh Fleming, Hadassa Friesen, Joy Jones, Jamie Krehbiel, Caroline Miller, Charlie Miller, Desirae Rodriguez, Sam Setiawan, Rylee Weishaupt and Ashleigh Williams, faculty and staff members Jose Gloria, Michele Hershberger, Johann Reimer and Ken Rodgers, and community member Mitch Stutzman.

Admission is free for Hesston College students, $5 for outside students and $10 for adults and seniors. Tickets will be available for purchase at the door or in advance at hesston.edu/bookstore or by calling 620-327-8104. Seating is limited, so early arrival is encouraged. Talkback sessions with the playwrights will follow the shows and each playwright will receive a portion of the box office earnings.