Gadi Abramowitz as Edward in Chris Kammerer’s The Stroke Scriptures, winner of Washington University’s biennial A.E. Hotchner Playwriting Competition. Photo by David Kilper/WUSTL Photo Services. Download hires image.
A husband goes missing. A celebrated writer fights to form words. Two young men embark on a pharmaceutically enhanced museum tour while a shell-shocked veteran wanders the streets.
Welcome to Chris Kammerer’s The Stroke Scriptures, winner of Washington University’s biennial A.E. Hotchner Playwriting Competition.
This month, the university’s Performing Arts Department (PAD) in Arts & Sciences will present the world premiere of The Stroke Scriptures in the A.E. Hotchner Studio Theatre.
Performances take place at 8 p.m. Thursday, Friday and Saturday, April 28, 29 and 30; and at 2 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, April 30 and May 1. Tickets are $15, or $10 for students, seniors and Washington University faculty and staff, and are available through the Edison Theatre Box Office and all MetroTix outlets.
The A.E. Hotchner Studio Theatre is located in the Mallinckrodt Center, 6445 Forsyth Blvd. For more information, call (314) 935-6543.
The Stroke Scriptures
The story opens on the Chicago “L.” College students Pat and Jeff are day-tripping to the Art Institute, where they plan to view surrealist paintings by Salvador Dali. But the pair’s indulgent revels are soon interrupted by Edward, an exuberant homeless man who generously offers to share a jacket filled with hot dogs.
From this chance encounter unfolds an Altman-esque series of disparate yet subtly intersecting scenes. Martha, a psychiatric nurse, is interviewed by police about the disappearance of her husband. Old friends Steve and Ron discuss their marriages in a hospital waiting room. Richard, a famous poet recovering from a stroke, struggles to speak with his protégé, David.
Selena Lane as Dr. Jameson. Photo by David Kilper/WUSTL Photo Services. Download hires image.
“This is a play about the mind in extremis,” says William Whitaker, senior lecturer in the PAD, who directs the cast of 13. “Every character is going through some emotional, spiritual or even psychotic journey.
“And yet as their stories collide, we begin to discover all the invisible ties that bind them together,” Whitaker says. “It’s really pretty sophisticated storytelling.”
A fifth plot line centers on Corbin, a mysteriously dazed businessman who finds himself under Edward’s protective wing. Yet eventually, these seemingly unrelated narratives begin to converge, building toward an intricately orchestrated finale in which every figure plays a role.
Kammerer is a senior at WUSTL in Arts & Sciences. “Chris has done some nice writing here,” Whitaker says. “All these characters are in states of high dudgeon, and yet there is a sly humor that helps weave their stories together.
“There’s almost a sense of comfort — of camaraderie — in knowing that, however anxious or terrified one may feel, everyone else feels just as lost.”
Cast and crew
The cast features sophomore Pete Winfrey and graduate student Tim Taylor as Pat and Jeff, with junior Gadi Abramowitz as Edward. Junior Sarah Wagener is Martha, while junior Alex Kahn and freshman James Boyce are the officers investigating her missing husband.
Senior Jonathan Levinson and sophomore Mitch Eagles play Steve and Ron. Seniors Matt Rosenthal and Eli Keehn are Richard and David, with freshman Will Jacobs as Corbin.
Rounding out the cast are junior Selena Lane, who pulls double-duty as Dr. Jameson and as Arianna, Steve’s wife; and junior Joanna McNurlen as both Katie, Richard’s nurse, and Stiller, a tough-minded Chicago cop whose insistent questioning begins to unravel the play’s central mystery.
The austere set design — by Sean Savoie, lecturer in drama and coordinator of the PAD’s Design-Technical Theater Program — features a large floor painting that juxtaposes a gestural image by Franz Kline with Leonardo da Vinci’s famous cutaway drawing of the human brain.
Costumes are by sophomore Carly Oshima. Lighting and sound are by seniors Scott Griffith and Erika Gould, respectively.
The Hotchner competition
Endowed by alumnus, novelist, poet and playwright A. E. Hotchner, the Hotchner competition selects one student work for full theatrical production every two years. Winners are chosen by jury the year prior to performance and spend the interim refining scripts and participating.
Hotchner, a 1940 graduate of Washington University, is the author of numerous screenplays, novels, plays and memoirs, including the 1966 volume Papa Hemingway, which recounts his long friendship with the famous writer. His memoir, King of the Hill, which recounts growing up in St. Louis, was made into a feature film in 1993.
WHO: Performing Arts Department in Arts & Sciences
WHAT: The Stroke Scriptures by Chris Kammerer, winner of the A.E. Hotchner Playwriting Competition; directed by William Whitaker
WHEN: 8 p.m. Thursday, Friday and Saturday, April 28, 29 and 30; and at 2 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, April 30 and May 1
WHERE: Washington University’s A.E. Hotchner Studio Theatre, Mallinckrodt Center, 6445 Forsyth Blvd.
COST:$15; $10 for seniors, students and Washington University faculty and staff. Available at the Edison Theatre Box Office, (314) 935-6543, and all MetroTix outlets.
INFORMATION: (314) 935-6543