Lights, Camera, Action: CRSM Student Thespians Learn from Chicago Playwright
January 25, 2023

Already plans are underway for opening night.  Stage sets are being designed.  Budding actors are auditioning for lead roles. The 40 students enrolled in the Introduction to Drama class are buzzing with anticipation for this year’s coming production in April.

What could possibly be more exciting than this?

How about having a noted Chicago playwright co-teaching the class?

Enter Michael Wagman, a playwright and actor who has written for and performed in Second City, and several Chicago theaters. He is volunteering his time four days a week after school to help students write “Scene-a-palooza     ,”which will debut April 21st. The production will be created by four teams, each who will write a 10-minute mini-play.

“It’s a unique and busy time for us,” said Elizabeth Partenach, CRSM English and Theater teacher. “We’re preparing for our Spring production and it’s a lot of fun for me having a real playwright helping coach students. It’s also very exciting for the students. Meeting a real live playwright helps them see playwriting as a viable career option. I’m anticipating this will be a transformative experience.”

For students in Elizabeth’s drama class, the opportunity to work hand-and-hand with Michael, a professional theater scribe “exposes them not just to the writing, but also how the props, acting, music and lighting work together to tell the story,” she said.

Currently Wagman is a stay-at-home dad living in Elgin and caring for his almost two-year-old-son. He said he was excited to receive the invitation from Elizabeth, a friend from their college days in DePaul University’s theater program. In addition to playwriting, he’s also appeared on stage in several Chicago-area productions including Strangeloop Theatre’s production of Mitera and Ghostlight’s 2016 production of “Krampus!” He was Co-Artistic Director at Ghostlight and received a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Playwriting from De Paul.

During a recent class, Wagman suggested to students that “everyone’s writing style is different, so do what is comfortable for you.” He urged students to explore the story that is inside of them that is waiting to be told. “Everybody has a story and there is so much energy around you discovering what is the story you need to tell. And remember you are valuable, all your ideas, opinions and feelings are valuable, and we need and want you to bring them all to theater and to have fun!”