Department of Theatre, 308.865.8670
Deanna Schatz, a University of Nebraska at Kearney senior honors student who is majoring in elementary education, has became a published playwright with her comedy, Off Hand.
The David City native wrote Off Hand as part of an assignment for Janice Fronczak’s playwriting class at UNK last fall. Fronczak said the students were required to submit their plays to a publisher, and Schatz’s play caught the attention of Heuer Publishing.
Schatz has been actively involved in the UNK theatre program, participating in five student-directed plays and one mainstage play. “The major reason I took playwriting was because of my strong interest in both writing and theatre,” she said. “I have done other types of writing, and I thought playwriting may be another form of creative writing that I would like.”
Off Hand originally began as a writing exercise where students had to write a short scene that began in the dark and then brought in some source of light. “I didn’t really know where it was going, but it turned out to be something I really liked after I wrote it, which is usually a rare occasion,” Schatz said.
On the Heuer Web site, Off Hand is described as follows, “A recent retiree and his wife make a startling discovery in their backyard. With false accusations, secret pasts, and a few mishaps along the way, this play is truly ‘off hand.’”
According to Schatz, the “starling discovery” is a human hand that the couple finds in their backyard.
The main characters of the play are a couple named Bob and Elaine. Officer Blaine rounds out the cast of two men and one woman.
Schatz said she wrote the play with audience entertainment in mind.
“The play was fun for me to write, so I was really just hoping that actors and audiences alike could simply have fun with this play,” Schatz said.
Schatz also said that writing a play is a little different than writing a novel or a report. “A play is something that is meant to be performed, not read silently, so it’s mostly writing dialogue instead of description. Playwriting is almost the opposite of story writing in that respect, because there is usually more of a need to tell rather than show,” Schatz said.
One distinctive aspect about Off Hand is its length of 10 minutes. Schatz said that most theatre companies don’t use 10 minute plays.
“I probably could have extended the play into a one-act to make it more marketable, but it seems to me that the play is complete and extending it would only add unnecessary details,” Schatz said.
Off Hand made its debut performance at the Museum of Nebraska Art. It was performed along with the other plays written in Fronczak’s playwriting class. Schatz’s brother is currently planning to use the Off Hand script for a short movie for a film class at Omaha Metro.
“It wasn’t intended to be a film, but I’m sure my brother and his class will create a unique adaptation of the script,” Schatz said.
For Schatz, more new plays could be around the corner. “I have another 10-minute play and a one-act in the works, but I don’t know if they will ever be completed. I hope to finish them, but if not, I would still like to write another,” Schatz said.
“I owe a thank you to my playwriting teacher, my classmates and the actors who first performed Off Hand during An Evening of Ten-Minute Plays at the Museum of Nebraska Art,” she said, adding, “To Heuer Publishing, producers/directors willing to take on Off Hand and audiences, thanks for giving me a chance.
“As for insightful comments on the play, have fun with it,” she said. “That’s all I ask. Some may think it’s complex for a 10-minute play, but don’t be afraid to experiment, whether the performance is simplistic or elaborate.”
The full text of Off Hand can be found online at: www.hitplays.com/default.aspx?pg=sd&st=OFF+HAND. Four scripts and performance rights for one year at a single venue can be purchased for $30.