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Public Affairs

Student play goes national

April 2, 2004

Photo of Jan ProbstIn "The First Page," Senior Sunday at the library turns into an unexpected adventure for three elderly women, compelling them to explore their lifelong friendship, love and the challenges of aging.

The 10-minute play, written by graduate student and playwright Jan Probst, will be staged for the first time before a national audience at this year's Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival (KCACTF). The festival, which runs from April 12 to 18, will be held at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C.

This is the second time a 10-minute play by an SFSU playwright has been selected to go to the national festival. The first was in 2001, with "You're It" by Jennifer Kollmer.

Probst's play will compete with seven others in the Ten-Minute Play Festival, where one playwright will receive a cash award of $1,000 for outstanding achievement and another play and the playwright will be awarded a full fellowship to be part of the Dad's Garage Theatre Co.'s short play festival in Atlanta. Each play represents one of eight regions, chosen at the regional festivals held earlier this year.

"The First Page" was selected among 120 submissions in region VIII, which comprises universities in Nevada, Utah, Arizona and California.

"The feedback I was given on my play indicated to me that the respondents felt that 'The First Page' contained the necessary dramatic elements, created a believable world with distinct characters, and in fact, is a 10-minute play," Probst said.

Probst completed "The First Page" in five days and the play received a staged reading -- where actors hold their scripts with no costumes or sets -- at SFSU's GreenHouse Ten Minute Fest in May 2003. GreenHouse is an independent production program created and run by playwriting faculty and students.

A Bay Area-based actor and writer, Probst is also a founding member of The Whole Works Women's Theatre Collective. For 15 years she was an active martial artist and self-defense instructor and during that time worked with StreetWise Women's Martial Arts Theatre. Her solo show, "No Fences," has been seen locally at Venue Nine, Speakeasy Theatre, the San Francisco Fringe Festival and on Gayble TV. Probst can next be seen playing Bette, in a staged reading of "Afternoon Drinking" by SFSU student Elizabeth Palmore April 23-25 at Teatro de la Esperanza in San Francisco.

"Jan brings a wealth of performance and theatre experience to her playwriting, and crafts pieces that run the gamut from the dramatic to the fabulously absurd. In the graduate Playwriting Program she's melded her theatre experience and her love for writing together into a skillful craft that maintains a sense of daring and danger in explorations of the human soul," said Roy Conboy, head of the Playwriting Program in the Creative Writing Department and chair of the Theatre Arts Department.

Other SFSU students and faculty also received top honors at the regional festival, hosted by California State University, San Bernardino in February. Theatre Arts students Jan Zimmerman and Kristi Johnson won the Kate Drain Lawson Design Award for Scene and Costume Design, both for "Uncle Vanya." The chorus ensemble of "The Trojan Women" also received a Meritorious Achievement Award. Conboy received an Excellence in Theatre Education Award for his New Plays Program.

The KCACTF is a national network of more than 600 academic institutions and 18,000 students from colleges and universities nationwide. At the KCACTF, theatre departments and student showcase their work and receive outside assessment by KCACTF respondents.

-- Public Affairs Student Writer Audrey Tang with Matt Itelson


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