The latest play from James Michael Playwright-in-Residence Wendy MacLeod ’81 not only explores its namesake, it is its namesake.
Community Service was written for the gala for Planet Connections Festivity, an arts and theatre group in New York City. The play is one of four to be performed as part of a “One Acts for a Cause” benefit June 22 at 7:30 p.m. at the East 13th Street Theatre in New York City. Proceeds will go to City Harvest, an organization that distributes millions of pounds of food to the city’s hungry.
“I like to periodically do volunteer work as a playwright, because I don’t work for a food bank,” MacLeod said. “This allows me to contribute.”
For Glory Kadigan, co-producing artistic director and a founding member of Planet Connections, MacLeod’s participation was a natural fit for the event. “I had always admired Wendy’s work,” she said, noting that as a student she had read all of MacLeod’s plays and directed some student productions. “I think that the types of plays that she writes are relevant to topics around City Harvest.”
“I’ve been dying to direct anything that Wendy has written for years,” said director Jen Wineman, “so getting to do a world premiere of this ten-minute play is really exciting.”
Community Service features three monologues: one from a college admissions counselor (Kellie Overbey), the father of an applying student (Jonathan Walker) and the student herself (Phoebe Strole).
“It’s this idea that in order to have a strong college application, you’re supposed to have done volunteer work,” MacLeod said. “So I ask if that has become a sort of cynical enterprise.”
That cynicism is expressed both by the admissions counselor — who does nothing in the way of community service — and the father figure who, at one point in the play, bemoans, “When did kids have to become Mother Teresa?” But through a chance interaction with a homeless man, the college applicant finds meaning, and, later, reward in doing the type of service derided by the others as often disingenuous.
“I think that [MacLeod] wrote an intelligent piece about whether or not community service is actually community service,” Kadigan said. “I think for some people it is, and I think for some people it’s just something you’re putting on a college application.”
MacLeod’s play, directed by Jen Wineman, will be accompanied by one-acts from playwrights Israel Horovitz, Erik Ehn and the Tenderloin Opera Company, and Winter Miller.
MacLeod hopes the audience will leave wondering “if they’re doing enough, and if they’re doing what they’re doing for the right reasons.”