The partnership between Monmouth University and the New Jersey Repertory Company in Long Branch began in 2006 when Joel Stone was asked to direct four short student plays for the Monmouth University Playwrights Festival. Working closely with faculty coordinator and playwriting professor Richard Paris, Stone was able to bring these new works to life with a small troupe of NJ Rep actors.
In 2014, Stone began teaching EN254 – 01 Creative Writing: Drama. He soon learned that very few of his students had seen a professional play, much less written one. Stone endeavored to increase his students’ understanding of playwriting with the following syllabus:
Students will study the craft of playwriting, including structure, dialogue, character development, conflict resolution, and basic stagecraft. They will learn the fundamentals—from monologues to soliloquies, from ten-minute works to one-act plays. Primary attention will be given to student work, with weekly reading and writing assignments and a special focus on the short play format. In conjunction with New Jersey Repertory Company in Long Branch, students will attend a full production of a new play at the theatre and will evaluate a new play as part of the theatre’s series of Monday staged readings. Near the end of the term, several student-written plays will be chosen and performed as a Monday staged reading at New Jersey Repertory Company.
As part of the course, students read over 20 short plays, attended a special NJ Rep performance of playwright Deborah Rennard’s “For Worse,” and wrote monologues and dialogue. The students chose ‘relationships’ as the theme for their 10-minute plays, which were presented to the public on November 17, 2014. The performances were an eye-opening experience for the students, and the audience talkback was very enlightening.
Now, every fall, students attend a special NJ Rep performance and choose a theme for their 10-minute plays based on issues that are important to them. The plays are then presented as the Festival of Monmouth Student Plays at the NJ Rep theatre in Long Branch.