Review Fix chats with playwright Ronna Levy, who discusses her production, Is This Going To Be On The Test, Miss?
About the Production:
Welcome to Community College remedial English, where it’s my job for the next 12 weeks to teach you what you should’ve learned over the past 12 years.
So here’s Ronna’s story: An aspiring actress moves to Los Angeles in 1992 to pursue her dreams. To makes ends meet, she takes a job as an adjunct instructor in a downtown Los Angeles community college, teaching “Basic Sentence Writing and Paragraph Building.”
Determined not to let this teaching job interfere with auditions, the aspiring actress indifferently enters this Remedial English classroom only to have her life changed by this group of academically under-prepared and economically disadvantaged students who exhibit a hunger and desire to learn despite their complex and chaotic lives. She loves teaching. A few years later, she moves back home to New York, reunites with her boyfriend whom she left to pursue her acting, and lands a job in a Brooklyn community college, teaching the same Remedial English to the same academically under-prepared and economically disadvantaged students. She spies an ever-growing gap between academia and reality. This is her story.
About the MITF:
The Midtown International Theatre Festival returns for another summer of quality stage works. New York’s oldest continuing theater festival will present 100 plays in 23 days.
One of the leading reasons to visit New York in the summer is the theater – from Shakespeare in the Park to the best of Broadway. New York is also known for its amazing theater festivals. This year, the venerable Midtown International Theatre Festival takes its place as the oldest continuing summer arts festival in New York. To usher in this honor, producer John Chatterton presents nearly 100 new and fascinating live stage works – plays, musicals, variety acts, short plays, solo projects, and so much more. Visit www.midtownfestival.org for further info.
Review Fix: What’s your creative process like?
Ronna Levy: I write. I revise. I write some more. I think. I rehearse. I revise some more. And do it all again. Because my show is autobiographical, my process is my everyday life.
Review Fix: What makes this different or special?
Levy: What has always bothered me is the Hollywood narrative of education: Fame, Dangerous Minds and so on. Add to the Hollywood portrayal, the absolute omission from any narrative — the community college. As far as most people are concerned, education is grade school, high school, and the 4-year college. Yet, more than 50% of students who continue their education after high school start at a community college. So where are all the plays and movies and TV shows about the community college? (Don’t get me started about that TV show Community). So, I’d have to say that what makes this show different AND special is that it is about a community college as told by someone who has had the privilege of being in a community college classroom and teaching community college students everyday.
Review Fix: What did you learn about yourself through this process?
Levy: I think I learned that I can do it. For over 20 years I have been thinking about my students, their stories, my story, writing, performing and thinking about how to bring it all together. So I think I learned to keep a dream alive. Well, it’s not really that simple, but as I said: I can do it.
Review Fix: How does it feel to be a part of something like this?
Levy: Being a part of any festival is always exciting: meeting new people, seeing new shows, creating new friendships. After a long academic year, being immersed in the theater world even for a small part of the summer is always wonderful.
Review Fix: What are your ultimate goals for this production and for the future?
Levy: Good question. I can’t point to ultimate goals. I have some thoughts about a future for this show, but they are fuzzy thoughts at this point.
Review Fix: What do you think your audiences will enjoy the most?
Levy: The honesty.
Review Fix: What’s next?
Levy: Honestly, I am not sure what is next for this show. I don’t think I am finished performing it, but I am not sure what is next.
Patrick Hickey Jr.
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