Johns Hopkins University

Fall 2008
Vol. 6, No.1


Student Research from the Field

Worth A Surf


Expert Opinion

Research Briefs

Classroom Encounters

Techno Roots of Urban Edens

>Student Playwright Finds Success in Failure

Music from the Material World

Research Rewarded

adjust type size + -

Student Playwright Finds Success in Failure

Photo by Will Kirk

Andy Warhol once predicted that in the future, everyone would get 15 minutes of fame. Last April, junior Eric Levitz got almost that when he won top honors in the 10-minute play category of the Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival.

His play, "Without Parachutes," is the story of Charlie and Carrie, a couple caught in a failing relationship and aboard a failing airplane. As the plane descends, they pretend they are at Carrie's apartment the day they first fell in love. The play juxtaposes scenes of the couple on the plane with scenes of them talking in Carrie's living room. Levitz says the idea for the play came from his dreams. "Since 9/11, one of the motifs in my dreams has been crashing airplanes," he says. "I tend to write about relationships, and a falling airplane was a metaphorical way to get at the disintegration of a relationship."

Levitz wrote the play when he was a first-semester sophomore in an introduction to playwriting class taught by Marc Lapadula, visiting professor in the Writing Seminars. "What's good about this play is that it was extremely theatrical with the plane shooting through the air and then the couple stepping out of that setting to converse. That was powerful and rather ingenious as a theatrical device," says Lapadula.

"Without Parachutes" made it to the American College National Theater Festival after winning a regional competition last January at Carnegie Mellon University. At the national event, the play was read, along with four other finalists, by a cast of student actors. When he won the final competition, Levitz received $1,000 and a fellowship for a two-week playwriting workshop this summer at the Kennedy Center.

The win earned "Without Parachutes" a four-night run in June at the Source Festival, a prestigious three-week event in Washington, D.C., that showcases new works in the visual and performing arts. Levitz drove eight hours from his home in Connecticut to see a live professional production of his work. That night, there was a problem with the sound system. "But it got a good reception, the audience liked it, and it was nice to hear my words," he says.

Since writing "Without Parachutes," Levitz has written two full-length plays and is working on a third. Even though he's winning awards for his plays, he remains a fiction major in the Writing Seminars. "I still write stories, and I wouldn't commit to one genre of writing," he says. "I am taking a screen writing course next year, and I want to study poetry. Getting better at one type of writing makes you better at the others."

Lapadula says that as good as "Without Parachutes" was, the next two plays Levitz wrote in his class were even better. "He has a mature way of approaching subject matter. He has an excellent ear for dialogue. He's funny. He's poetic," says Lapadula. "He's what you go to the theater to experience."