GW Professor’s drama takes center stage

Allyson Currin may be the creative mind behind the Charter Theatre’s new play, “Church of the Open Mind,” but that doesn’t mean she’s unwilling to do some grunt work.

In addition to her role as a prominent D.C. playwright, Currin balances her job as an actress by grading GW student papers for her Introduction to Acting classes.

“Church of the Open Mind” is the fourth world premiere of Currin’s work, an impressive achievement for any playwright. Currin admitted in a recent Hatchet interview that the process of getting her play produced was not easy.

“As a playwright period, you do a lot of beating your head against the wall. In this profession people read plays all the time, why should they read more?” she said.

Currin found a home for her newest show at the Charter Theatre, an up and coming theater company that offers a pay-what-you-can ticket policy and tends to feature the works of newer writers. Currin applauds the company’s practice of taking on plays by new writers.

“The fact they’re nurturing new voices in theater is great. It’s really an incredible mission,” she said.

Taking chances on newer work is not a common practice for most local theater companies, so the Charter Theatre offers a home for many productions that would otherwise fall through the cracks.

“There are some wonderful opportunities in D.C., but it’s not nearly what it should be. There’s a snobbery at work as well,” Currin said. “There’s a sort of unwillingness to do a play by a local playwright. You have to be from New York, you have to be from (Los Angeles).”

Currin developed the script for “Church of the Open Mind” over a period of seven years. With constant revisions and last minute changes, it was a process that only ended about a week ago.

“I showed up with two endings last week, and I said ‘you guys pick,'” Currin said.

The GW professor describes the show as a “play about finding your voice and deciding whether or not you should break free of the people that you owe everything to.”

“Church of the Open Mind” tells the story of a female writer returning to her father, also her former editor, after a failed solo writing venture. The father is obsessed with the idea of leading his daughter to success, even if he must quiet her voice in the process.

“The title character, Church, who’s the father, was someone that I was very intrigued with, someone that I really wanted to get on paper,” Currin said. “The other characters started off the complete opposite of what they are now. They just kind of fell around him.”

Church was the starting point, not only because he is an interesting character but also because he is a man.

“I have an easier time writing men than women. I just generally get along better with men,” Currin said. “It’s not that they’re more complex or anything. I just get them in a more straightforward way than women characters.

“I’d love to write an all-male play, but as an actress I feel an obligation to write roles for women,” she said.

“Church of the Open Mind” runs through Jan. 27 at the Charter Theatre. After this production, Currin introduces another play, “Learning Curve,” at the Shakespeare Theatre and said she has a few other shows in the works.

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