The Red Pen
U of I Playwright Bridges the Distance From Moscow to Chicago and Between Black and White
Race relation issues are never black and white as demonstrated in the new play, “The Red Pen” by Vinecia Coleman, which received a professionally showcased, staged reading at Chicago Dramatists in Chicago, Illinois on March 15.
Coleman, from Lawton/Ft. Sill, Oklahoma, graduated from University of Idaho in 2016 with an MFA in Theatre Arts. “The Red Pen” was written as her exit project and is a thought-provoking play intended to raise questions and create conversation around the issue of race. The script examines how two couples — one black, one white — remember and react to various situations and the impact on their friendship.
Writing the play was Coleman’s way to break through her own frustration of being Black in this country. She wanted to share pieces of her own experiences with racism and prejudice. Her hopes were that by exploring her own fear and anguish, she could help others not feel alone.
However, tackling a tough and touchy subject was frightening. “I was incredibly afraid to write this play,” Coleman said. But the urge to create won out. “I want to tell stories that are mine, that are important to me,” she said.
Marti Lyons, a U of I MFA distance candidate based in Chicago, directed the play and some U of I alumni had supporting roles. Lead roles were read by professional actors.
“This production was representative of the bridge between the University of Idaho and the professional world,” said Professor Robert Caisley, head of U of I Theatre Arts playwriting and the distance MFA program.
“The reputation of our distance program has attracted an enormous amount of exceptional theater professionals,” said Caisley. “With this program, we are building an excellent network around the country.”
Coleman intends to relocate to Chicago after completing a year-long Rex Rabold Fellowship at Oregon Shakespeare Festival. The Rabold is an exclusive connection between the U of I and OSF that provides one U of I graduate, selected by audition, to perform with the prestigious company.
Chicago Dramatists (http://www.chicagodramatists.org/) is a leading incubator for new playwriting in a city that is one of the country’s best centers of new work.