Junior Theatre Arts major Melissa Green is this year’s winner of the Kennedy Center’s National Undergraduate Playwriting Award – which she was awarded for her original full-length play, “Goldenrod.” The play is the story of a woman who was never allowed to process the traumas of her childhood and the long-lasting effect it has had on her and her relationship with her family.
“Winning this award is like getting a new tank of gas,” said Green. “It’s energizing and it gets me excited to keep writing and keep creating. Creating art is this tightrope act between crippling self-doubt and over stimulated narcissism and shouting out into the void hoping that something sticks. And when someone shouts back, it keeps you going and makes you want to work harder. That’s what winning this feels like. It’s an absolute honor and I am eternally grateful.”
Green describes some of the challenges she faced designing her characters. “The biggest challenge with Goldenrod was definitely finding the characters,” she said. “I still don’t feel like I quite know them or understand them, and it took me a while before I felt I had created people that someone would be friends with or have a sisterly bond with, but who you would also dread having to sit next to during Thanksgiving. I had a lot of difficulty finding this balance of realism with a family that has faced such a unique and tragic experience.”
Although certainly motivated to write “Goldenrod” because it was an assignment for a class, Green looked to multiple sources to find the inspiration to make her play uniquely hers. Said Green, “I think for this play I had been reading about bee-activism and modern gardening techniques, which is only one element of the play but that’s the strongest throughline from the first draft to the final. But of course, it’s never just one thing and it’s rarely conscious for me…The play I was rehearsing for at the time probably inspired me. Research I was working on for another class definitely inspired me at some point. There’s never just one point of inspiration.”
Varied factors have influenced Green as a playwright in general, who draws inspiration from other academic disciplines as well as more hands-on experience in the theatre as an actress. “My first-year seminar was about the sociology of relationships and I still use what I learned in that class to shape my characters,” she said. “Every acting class I take, every show I’m in gives me new inspiration for a play. Any class in the English department where I have to write a research paper or do a literature review gets me excited about playwriting.”
Though the playwright’s role is only strictly to write, Green firmly believes that the most effective playwrights are familiar with every aspect of the production of a show. With this in mind, she compares writing to figuring out the pieces of a puzzle before it’s even assembled.
Looking forward, Green intends to continue her career as a writer as well as continue to immerse herself in all aspects of theatre. “I’d love to continue writing and creating theatre in my future career,” she said. “I’m also very interested in directing and screenwriting, as well as dramaturgy and casting and acting and design. I want to do everything.”