Spotlight on Student Project: WHAT I WOULD TELL YOU

Katy Smith, a current sophomore at Hope College and active in the Theatre Department, has been writing “since [she] could hold a crayon.” During her senior year of high school, she began a new project—a play. Over the past two years, Katy has written and rewritten this piece, scrapping entire scenes and changing characters’ personalities. Now, she gets the chance to hear her play, titled What I Would Tell You, performed by actors in a staged reading taking place on Wednesday, March 3, at 7:00 pm. It will be directed by Assistant Professor Richard Perez. 

In Katy’s words, What I Would Tell You “follows five high schoolers as they go through their senior year. So this means your typical end-of-high-school stuff like dealing with the finality of growing up, friend group drama, family problems, etc. But, it also means dealing with death and the grieving process, through the lens of a young person.” When Katy began writing, her high school had gone through four deaths in four years. The inspiration for the plot stemmed from this feeling that her community was grieving without including the students in high school. The grieving process of the community was entirely separated from them. “I was watching all of these kids around me grieve and it was tough,” Katy said. “That stage of life is so precious—so much changes before you hit college and during it. I just wanted to encapsulate what some of us were going through (though the contents are only very loosely autobiographical).”

Katy Smith (left) with Cecilia Casper (center) and Grant McKenzie (right) in Hope College’s production of The Thanksgiving Play by Larissa FastHorse.

What I Would Tell You has gone through many changes during its creation process. Katy noted how the first draft “lacked maturity” though it was “certainly tethered to how [she] spoke and saw the world at that time (her senior year of high school).” She has done several table readings of the script that prompted edits. One such table reading led to a change in the title—the play used to be called Tired Valleity but once Maxwell Lam (‘20) suggested the current title, it stuck.  

The staged reading holds a lot of potential for Katy. She’s looking forward to the feedback she will receive, specifically any that will help her “write a better ending and buff out the dents [she’s] not a huge fan of.” Professor Perez noted how staged readings often help playwrights figure out what’s working and what’s not. As the director, he said his role “is to ask pertinent questions that help lead the playwright to their vision of what the play should be.” Writing has always been one of Katy’s biggest passions. Professor Perez was drawn to What I Would Tell You after having Katy in his playwriting class last semester. Katy has a natural talent for dialogue, though she said “I still haven’t figured out how to end a play, I think.” This staged reading provides Katy with the unique opportunity to hear her play read by experienced actors and receive feedback that will help her further her skills as a playwright.

Blog author: Annika Dekker (‘23)

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