The Kennedy Center recently honored a Hollins University student with the National Partners of the American Theatre Playwriting Award.
Sean McCord had no plans to become a playwright when he went to a show several years ago.
“I walked into LiveArts, the local community theatre here in Charlottesville, where my son had been cast in a show. And, it all kind of came back to me; I remembered how much I had enjoyed theatre in my early college days.”
McCord earned his BFA in film and screenwriting from UCLA in the early 80s.
“I lived and worked in the LA area for much of my 20s; you know, writing my screenplays, making movies with friends. And, after a few years, 7 or 8 years, I left LA because I discovered even though I really liked the movies, I didn’t really like Los Angeles that much.”
After some time in New York, McCord moved to Charlottesville, where the exposure to local theatre put him on the path to being honored by the Kennedy Center.
“I discovered a writing group there, the LiveArts Playwrights Lab. And, every summer they would put on a show of shorts that they had written; So, I went to that show and oh, wow, you mean you can just like write a play and get together with friends and they will put it on? So, I joined and started writing short plays and after that I was kind of hooked.”
Following the presentation of several of his short plays by LiveArts and other groups in Charlottesville, McCord took the leap to begin an MFA program in playwriting at Hollins University in Roanoke.
Todd Ristau is the founder and director of the Hollins Playwright’s Lab.
“The playwriting program at Hollins is kind of unique in that it is a high intensity, low residency program that only meets for six weeks during the summer. And the National Partners of American Theatre have this wonderful award to recognize at the national level one of the strongest student-written plays each year.”
McCord’s award-winning play, Moving, is his first full length play, written after he started the MFA program at Hollins.
“This particular play, Moving takes place in an apartment in the Silver Lake neighborhood of Los Angeles. That becomes the set as different people and couples move in and out of that space over 30 years. And, how a place that had people in it can impact the people who come into it later.”
Laura: “I’m here to look at the apartment. Are you Stan?”
Paul: “I’m Paul, Stan’s my landlord.”
Laura: “Stan said I should come by and take a look at it. I didn’t know that you were still moving.”
Paul: “So you just waked in?”
Laura: “You told me to.”
Paul: “I don’t even know you.”
Laura: “You said come on in, the door’s not locked.”
Paul: “Yeah, I thought you were the movers.”
Laura: “This really isn’t not my fault.”
Paul: “Yeah, okay.”
Laura: “Maybe I should just come back.”
Paul: “No, it’s fine. I’m sorry if I was a little short. My name’s Paul.”
Laura: “I know.”
Paul: “How do you know that?”
Laura: “You told me. You are Paul, Stan is your landlord.”
Paul: “Who are you?”
Laura: “I’m the one that’s here to look at your apartment. Are you okay? Do you have memory problems?”
Laura: “Oh, I’m Laura.”
Paul: “Please to meet you. My name’s Paul.”
That’s from the first production of Moving, staged by the Charlottesville Playwrights Collective in 2017. Todd Ristau will be directing a full production of Moving as part of the Hollins-Mill Mountain Theatre Winter Festival of New Works in January.
Sean McCord is the second Hollins student to receive the Kennedy Center’s National Partners of the American Theatre Playwriting Award; the first was Meredith Levy for her play Decision Height in 2013.
Playwrights Lab director Todd Ristau is understandably proud of McCord’s achievement.
“We’re very excited that his play has risen to the top in this way and we will bask in the reflected glory, knowing that the training that a playwright gets at Hollins is deserving of this kind of national recognition.”
The Award comes with a cash prize; membership in the Dramatists Guild and the Playwrights’ Center of Minneapolis; and a professional development summer residency. McCord’s play was nominated from among eight Kennedy Center college regions for the national award.
Watch the first production of Moving: Charlottesville Playwrights Collective