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Playwriting 101: New Orleans dramatist and Loyola professor shares tips with high school students

August 30, 2013

Episcopal High School students in Chad McElveen’s English class will actually get to meet the man who wrote the play they’ve been studying in class. That’s because the playwright is New Orleans’ own John Biguenet, author of the “Rising Water” trilogy—the plays “Rising Water,” “Shotgun” and “Mold”—and the Robert Hunter Distinguished Professor at Loyola University New Orleans. The Baton Rouge high school students will come to Loyola Sept. 16 to discuss “Shotgun” with Biguenet.

“Speaking with the playwright would be interesting because I have never spoken with the author of a play I’ve read before,” said Episcopal High School student Anne Boudreaux. “It would be interesting to see where his inspiration came from and the reasons behind his play.”

This semester, the students studied setting as character and looked specifically to Biguenet’s play for its setting in New Orleans. “Shotgun” is set four months after the levees collapsed in New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina in 2005. It tells the story of a white man and his teenage son who rent half of a shotgun duplex from an African-American woman. The woman lives in the other side of the duplex with her father who lost his home in the Lower Ninth Ward.

The teenager in the play is a junior in high school at the time of the levee collapse. “There’s a character with whom they can identify,” Biguenet said.

“I felt the play depicted a perspective of New Orleans many don’t see,” McElveen said. “John touches on topics and situations in the play which will lend themselves to a critical analysis of the play while also developing and expanding the minds of my students about New Orleans.”

Armed with their newfound knowledge and tips from Biguenet, the high school students will compose an original fictional piece by the end of the semester.

In addition to sharing his expertise with tomorrow’s promising writers, Biguenet also shared his expertise with another audience Aug. 23 at the Dramatists Guild National Conference in Chicago, Ill. He discussed writing about catastrophes.

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