By: Curious Theatre Company On: February 10, 2016 In: Curious & Curiouser Blog Comments: 0

-Emily Dendinger, NNPN Playwright in Residence

Before I came to Denver as this year’s NNPN Playwright in Residence, Curious contacted me about writing a play about Emily Griffith, Denver’s most famous educator, for the school’s hundredth anniversary. I immediately said yes—a new play about a strong, brave, historic woman? Yes, please!

I started researching Emily’s life and was impressed by everything she had accomplished including starting her vocational Opportunity School open to “all who wish to learn”. I read testimonies of people who attended her school and was deeply moved by the many lives she had touched. I was also interested in learning more about Emily the person—where had she come from, what was she like and had she always been passionate about education? I read Debra Faulkner’s fantastic book, Touching Tomorrow: The Emily Griffith Story (a must read for any fan), which illuminated many of my questions. Then I met with Debra in person, and she was able to tell me even more about Emily’s life.

The hard part came when I realized I had to try and condense this amazing woman’s life into a thirty-minute play. I decided my angle into the world would be a real life event that the Kiwanis Club organized in 1946 celebrating Emily’s life called “A Rose for Miss Emily”. This evening happened shortly before Emily’s death and provided a way for seventy-year-old Emily to look back on her life.

The play begins in the Albany Hotel as a nervous Emily Griffith waits in a hotel room to be escorted to her seat for the ceremony. A young man named David has been sent to accompany her, and Emily begins to wonder aloud if she is really deserving of this award, or if there is more she could do. What follows is a retrospective journey through Emily’s life the way she remembers it.

The play moves through many different times and events in Emily’s life. It’s a challenging piece for actors because they play many different roles with the exception of Emily, who plays herself from the age of eight all the way up to seventy. Our fearless ensemble includes Josh Hartwell, Kevin Lowry, John Hauser, Adrian Engolf and Amanda Berg as Emily. Led by director Amy Feinberg, we started our rehearsal process knowing that a lot of these moments would need to be found in the rehearsal room, discovered together as a company. Over the first week, the script changed as we found our own unique way of telling the story. As an artist, this part of the process is my favorite.

As we move closer to our Friday performance date (2/12), the play is still developing as the actors continue to find new moments every day. Although my work as a writer is nearly done at this point, I love seeing what the actors continue to bring into the rehearsal room, and I am eager to see what the final product will look like.