In the play, “Gone…,” the character Sarah reminds her protesting mother, a recent stroke victim, why she was moved to an assisted-living facility.
Ethel: Why! Why can’t I go to the house? I don’t want to live here.
Sarah: You can’t live at the house anymore. It’s not safe. You and Dad have to be here where people can take care of you, think of it as a vacation after all those years of—
Ethel: But . . . No! I want to go live at the house. Why can’t I live at the house?
The story is familiar to many: the heartbreak of a loved one advancing in years and losing his or her mental capacity. The judges said the universality of “Gone…” was one reason it won the 2007 USC MPW One-Act Play Festival. Playwright Kristina Sisco, a second-year student in USC College’s Master of Professional Writing Program (MPW), took home the award May 2.
The four plays were so good that the judges had difficulty coming to a consensus, said Lee Wochner, the festival’s executive producer and artistic director.
“I just got back from the state Democratic Convention [in San Diego] and there was much less debate there,” Wochner joked at the Los Angeles theater where the plays were staged and the winner was announced.
A graduate of Thomas Edison State College in New Jersey, Sisco, 25, is in her second year in the program and relatively new to writing. Most of her life has been devoted to acting or being on camera. At 13, Sisco first stepped in front of the camera as a student reporter for the local news. By 18, she was playing a part on the daytime drama, “As the World Turns.” Recently, she completed the film, “The Flock,” with Richard Gere.
Despite her success as an actor, she wants to focus on writing.
“When I enrolled in the MPW program, I fell in love with doing the other side of it all — the writing,” she said.
Sisco decided to write about an elderly couple and the couple’s devoted and exhausted daughter, after her own grandmother suffered a stroke. She watched her mother take care for her ailing grandmother.
“It’s very sad to watch someone you love go through that,” Sisco said. “It’s a sad situation, but if you really step back, there are also some really funny moments. It’s something I wanted to capture because it’s very universal. It’s a burden that eventually everyone has to carry.”
Now in its 26th year, the MPW One-Act Play Festival is meant to launch students’ playwriting careers by giving them the experience of having their work produced by professional directors and actors.
All MPW students were invited to submit their plays, which were collected in a blind-submission process. The judging pool was comprised of a drama critic, a regional theater director and playwrights.
“The festival gives our students the opportunity to work with veteran directors, actors, producers, agents and critics,” said Susan Kamei, associate dean for advanced and professional programs at the College. “It also introduces them to the theater industry.”
“Gone…” was the first of Sisco’s plays to be produced. Ross Kramer, who was assistant director for the award-winning production, “War Music,” directed. The three finalists were Xander Kennedy for “The Cabaret Voltaire,” Richard Setlowe for “The Apple That Fell Far From The Tree,” and Nancy Weiner for “The Invalid James.”