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UNC students' plays performed at Flyleaf Books

Monday night, Flyleaf Books hosted an event that featured two short plays written by UNC students who have been in the writing for the screen and stage program over the years.

Actors Michael Shannon, Jane Holding and John Paul Middlesworth did a dramatic reading of both “Death and Dignity” and “When the Bell Rings, You Shut the **** Up.” These two plays are a part of a larger collaborative book, “Twenty-Five Short Plays: Selected Works from the University of North Carolina Long Story Shorts Festival, 2011-2015.”

The bookstore also hosted Dana Coen, the editor of the book and the director of the UNC program. The plays included in the book were all written for the Long Story Shorts One Act Festival, which is approaching its seventh year here in Chapel Hill.

Each play in the book has a unique perspective on whatever topic the particular student chose to write about. Coen said that he never tells students what they can or cannot write — he only limits them by time availability and the number of actors they can have on the stage.

The first long short story performed, “Death and Dignity,” told the story of a medical examiner who had the job of determining the cause of death of his recently deceased wife. The intense emotional effect on the audience was visible throughout the 10-minute reading.

The following play was much more comedic and showed a completely different side of theater.

“When The Bell Rings, You Shut the **** Up” showed an intense, yet hysterical scene of an older couple in marriage counseling with a therapist who, in their opinion, has some wacky tactics.

Mary Amos, a junior at UNC who is minoring in writing for screen and stage, was in attendance at the event. 

"My favorite part of the second play was its undeniable humor," Amos said.

Middlesworth described the performance process as a refreshing reunion of sorts. He said that what interested him most about these plays was how the students who wrote each play got to branch out of their comfort zones and write about experiences they may have not ever had.

Usually, these plays have a little less than a one week turn-around for actors to learn and perform, a Sunday night to Saturday night commitment.

"My enjoyment comes from the abbreviated schedule," Middlesworth said.

A lot of work goes into each one of the plays written in the program. It was a yearlong process for Coen to edit all of these plays for the book. He wants the book to be read and the plays to be produced.

“I love the idea that 18-, 19- and 20-year-olds are going to talk about the world in such interesting ways,” Coen said.


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