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Tony Award-winning playwright Christopher Durang spoke to Conservatory of Performing Arts students. Photo | Allie Wynands
Sheila McKenna talks with Christopher Durang in the George Rowland White Performance Studio.

As part of the Dramatists Guild of America's Mentoring Artists Tour, Conservatory of Performing Arts students had the unique opportunity to attend a conversation and reception with Tony award-winning playwright Christopher Durang, held during the fall 2013 semester.

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"I find these types of opportunities at Point Park to be very beneficial because it encourages young artists to be open-minded, and we can apply what we learned in our classes," said Matt Augustyniak, a junior musical theatre major.

During the conversation, led by Sheila McKenna, chair and associate professor in the theatre department, Durang spoke about his educational background, his mentors, issues facing young writers and his career experience as a playwright.

"There's a trend that young writers are facing today that I feel my generation didn't," explained Durang. "A lot of our playwrights will submit a play to a theatre, and end up having readings at several theaters, getting different dramaturgs to share their opinions, and that's good. But in the process, I've seen a few of my students lose their play because they are so anxious to get a production."

Durang also welcomed questions from Point Park, University of Pittsburgh and Carnegie Mellon University students.

Sophomore acting major Sara Williams asked Durang about the role of actors from a playwright's perspective.

"I learned the importance of not losing my voice as an artist," said Williams. "As an actor in a play, my job is to fulfill the playwright's intention when telling a story. It was really great to hear how I can ensure not to let concepts interfere with my ultimate intention on stage."

McKenna said it's always inspiring for young artists to listen and learn from master teachers and major artists like Durang.

"His words, philosophies, demeanor and humor made a strong and lasting impression on everyone in attendance," she said. "We seek every opportunity to provide such experiences to our students. It's important that they learn whose shoulders they are standing on today, and who is shining a beacon on the road ahead."

While in Pittsburgh, Durang attended the City Theatre Company's production of his award-winning play, Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike, which featured McKenna as Sonia.


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