Playwright opens script to student critique

Two Portland-based actors perform a staged reading of Rob Urbinati’s play, “Death by Design” on Feb. 26 in Ford Hall. Urbinati was available to answer student questions and recieve suggestions for the play. Victor Zhu /For the Review

Two Portland-based actors perform a staged reading of Rob Urbinati’s play, “Death by Design” on Feb. 26 in Ford Hall. Urbinati was available to answer student questions and recieve suggestions for the play. Victor Zhu /For the Review

Students had the opportunity to witness a renowned playwright at work and get involved in his creative process Feb. 26. They were invited to a dramatic reading of Rob Urbinati’s most recent work, “Death by Design,” where they were encouraged to provide feedback after the show.

The play is a murder mystery set in London in 1930. It took a humorous spin on developing the suspects and gave the audience plenty of opportunities to speculate about who the murderer was in the end.

“The plot is full of twists and good fun. It’s an opportunity for the audience to actively be involved in the show,” freshman Jenny Layton said.

Freshman Dorthy Sterling also had a positive reaction to the play.

“The actors used accents because the play was set in England, so it was really realistic,” Sterling said. “Some of the actors even looked like what their characters would have looked like.”

The staged reading was designed to give the audience a feel for the story without seeing a full performance. Actors had to portray a character through their voice and facial expression rather than using props and a stage. They also remain seated throughout the performance.

“‘Death by Design’ has a lot of action, so it was weird listening to someone read the actions out loud rather than doing them,” Sterling said.

After the reading, audience members were invited to ask questions about the plot, characters or why Urbinati wrote what he did. They could also critique the work, which Urbinati encouraged to improve his story.

“The point is to ask the playwright questions so that he can go back and re-write another draft of the show and be sure that it makes sense to an audience,” Layton said. “It was very helpful for Rob [Urbinati] to double- check his facts and even his grammar so the story is clear.”

Urbinati’s writing received varying critiques, including one audience member who believed the word “deeply” was overused in the second act. Another audience member suggested revising the ending of the play to make the final resolution more straight forward.

“Death by Design” is set for a world premiere in September. However, the Linfield community can see an Urbinati play sooner when his original play, “West Moon Street,” opens March 15 in the Marshall Theater. “West Moon Street” is based on Oscar Wilde’s short story “Lord Arthur Savile’s Crime” and will feature Linfield theater students.


Brittany Baker/Staff Reporter

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