Akasha Neely, a playwright at SF State, in San Francisco CA., Monday, May 1, 2023. (Chris Myers / Golden Gate Xpress) (Chris Myers)
Akasha Neely, a playwright at SF State, in San Francisco CA., Monday, May 1, 2023. (Chris Myers / Golden Gate Xpress)

Chris Myers

Greenhouse Festival brings student plays to life

After a four year hiatus, the Greenhouse Festival is back to featuring play productions from students.

May 12, 2023

For the first time since 2019, the Greenhouse Theatre Festival is back at SF State without any restrictions. When the pandemic hit, the festival had to go virtual, and the two years following were performed with masks on. 

The festival is a collaborative effort between the Department of Creative Writing, the School of Music and the School of Theatre & Dance. Outside collaborators such as theater production company Z Space and The Sam Mazza Foundation are also involved.

Professor Ann Galjour teaches Creative Writing 825 Playwright’s Theatre Workshop, a class where students work over the course of the semester to take plays they have written and refine them into productions worthy of Greenhouse. As a prerequisite to the course, each writer had to already have written a play that was ready to be put into production. 

During a lecture on grant writing, Galjour spoke on the importance of being able to “sell” your play.

“There still needs to be more art just for art’s sake, to realize creative vision,” Galjour said.

“YOU DON’T HAVE TO CRY” by M.J. Morrone is the first play of the festival and the only one with such a unique location: Humanities Building room 587. In this play, which takes place on May 12 at 7 p.m., Morrone proposes a single question to his audience:

“Is there something inherently ‘you’ about you? Or are you instead made up of all the roles you play and the groups in which you belong?” Morrone asks. 

Utilizing an experimental structure, there are 10 main storylines in the play with over 60 scenes.  This created some difficulty when it came to his vision being realized, but he claims the most challenging aspect was just doing something he had never done before.

“Never having been through the process before that was the hard part,” Morrone said.

By the end of his play, Morrone hopes the audience goes through their own lives, examining the roles they play in society and exploring who they really are. 

The next show will be May 15 at 7 p.m. in Creative Arts Building Room 104, better known as The Lab.

“CURTAIN CALL” by Grace Hoffman follows a group of high school students who attempt a seance with their beloved recently deceased teacher. It covers topics such as community and a love for theater.

“Of course it’ll speak to high school theater geeks, but I also think it’ll speak to anyone who has engaged in any sort of creative passion, and how that brings people together and how that brings them apart,” Hoffman said. “Different power structures within those relationships.”

Hoffman feels that this is a timely story, with the power struggles within the play relating to the average person’s daily life. Hoffman uses the supernatural aspects to heighten the reality of situations for her characters.

Hoffman pulled influence from other modern contemporary works such as “Yellowjackets” and “Hereditary,”  and was sure she had written a harrowing horror.

“It’s way funnier than I thought,” Hoffman recognized. “I was shocked when people were laughing. Shocked. I didn’t realize that I wrote a comedy.”

Hoffman realizes the potential control she has over the audience and knows the most important thing is to make sure that she evokes emotion.

“I hope they laugh, I hope they cry, I hope they feel winded by the end,” Hoffman said.

On May 16, “JUST SAY YOU’RE FINE” by Joshua Graves premieres at 7 p.m. in The Lab. Graves’ play will focus on growth, solitude and the struggles of facing these issues while feeling detached from those closest to you.

“I chose to focus on the issue of suicide, which is very personal for me,” Graves said.

Graves uses humor to explore sensitive subjects with care and finesse. His goal is to use laughter to ease the delivery of tougher topics.

“To take notice of the people around you, ask how they are doing. Really ask, don’t just let them say they are fine,” Graves said. “For the people who are going through it, I want them to feel seen, for them to notice that they are not alone.”

Graves intentionally designed his play to be simple and easy to produce. He recalls the peak of his experience during the production being when he got to see the actors read the script for the first time.

“Them getting into it and being as excited about it and as interested as I am,” Graves said. “Got them to ask questions that piqued a curiosity in the words they were reading.”

The following night at 7 p.m., “A NIGHT OF VIOLENCE or Decadent Dionysian Delights” by Akasha Neely will be performed in the same location. Neely is a graduate student in their final semester at SF State.

“A NIGHT OF VIOLENCE or Decadent Dionysian Delights” is a “trans sketch comedy” similar to the film “Monty Python and the Holy Grail” and the television series “In Living Color.”

“A lot of the themes we go over in the play are absurdism, transphobia, how being a person of color intersects with being the LGBT+ community,” Neely said. “There’s been an overwhelming anti-trans legislation push in a lot of states.”

The biggest challenge, outside of finding the right cast members, was Neely’s comparison of what was originally envisioned to what was brought to life.

“I want them to come away with an understanding that trans people are human,” Neely said. “We like to laugh as much as anyone else, we are just people trying to live our lives, just like they do, we have our struggles like they have their struggles.”

“BANDAGED PARTS” by Lynn Mari will be premiering on May 18 at 7 p.m. in The Lab. Mari’s play follows a protagonist faced with a breast cancer diagnosis, along with other complications that life brings.

“It brings up all sorts of past trauma that she has been suppressing,” Mari said.

This stress is depicted in the protagonist’s relationships, including the ways in which they navigate those relationships. Mari hopes to create a piece that allows others to feel seen and recognize their struggles.

“All these expectations for what women are supposed to look like add to it,” Mari explained while detailing the themes which the play touches on. “Aside from the persistent and overarching fear of death itself.”

Mari touches on subjects like body dysmorphia and carefully tries to give voice to those who have experienced it.

“I want them to feel like they have been seen, that they have been expressed, that their experience has been explicitly stated in the world,” Mari said.

The last show on May 19 will be “BANANA POINT” by Ali Littman, a story that follows a group of girls who gossip after lights out at a Jewish girl’s camp. Littman is working toward her MFA in fiction and her masters in playwriting, so this play will be her thesis project. Littman covers themes such as misogyny and how it is perpetuated among girls.

“During that time, they teach each other about what it means to be attractive to boys, what they need to do to themselves and to their bodies and their personalities to get a date to the camp dance,” Littman said.

Littman proposes the question of what misogyny does to girls and women, and expands upon where the issue originates and how it is perpetuated. 

“I’m most interested in internalized misogyny, so how it’s perpetuated between girls and women,” Littman said. “That makes me the saddest.”

Littman pulls from her personal experiences as a stand-up comedian, and the choice of a comedy was obvious. She also experienced summer camps similar to the one in “BANANA POINT.”

Littman uses humor to deliver sensitive topics and defuse the tension. She wants to create a sense of community, and hopes the audience will not feel alone in these experiences.

All the plays will be free and open to the public, no tickets or registration required. 

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About the Contributors
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D'Angelo Hernandez-Fulks, A&E Editor
D’Angelo Hernandez is the Arts & Entertainment editor, he is a Journalism major with a Philosophy minor. A Bay Area native he got his start writing for the Spectator at Chabot College. If he isn’t found at his desk streaming Escape from Tarkov, you can find him at the movies. His genre being character studies such as There Will be Blood, The Batman and No Country for Old Men.
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Chris Myers, Staff Photographer
Chris Myers (he/him) is a photographer for Golden Gate Xpress. He is a photojournalism major with a minor in buisness administration. Currently based out of San Francisco and his current hobbies consists of snowboarding, golf and softball. He is really appreciative of the hundreds of inches of snow that the Sierra Nevada has recieved this Winter.

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