When Dr. Allison Paynter received the call for one-minute plays from the Dramatists Guild, she immediately got to work. The Chaminade English professor had only a few days to write a microplay consisting of no more than 150 words about the novel coronavirus. If selected, her play would become part of The Coronavirus Plays: A Project Created by the One-Minute Play Festival, America’s largest and longest running grassroots theater company.
She was sitting in her office with an older performance poster from Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory on her wall when the email came through. “It was the first play my son was in,” says Dr. Paynter. “He played Charlie.” The poster provided the perfect inspiration.
Dr. Paynter’s dark comedy emerged to tell the story of two individuals in the time of coronavirus who meet on a street corner. One is carrying a packet of toilet paper, and when the other tries to grab it, a golden ticket falls out—a ticket for a free trip to South Korea and a stay in a luxury hotel, complete with a bidet.
Her play was selected to be part of the festival that aired on Zoom from April 8-17. “Since I’m a new playwright, I wasn’t certain if I could turn something around so quickly and make it accessible,” says Dr. Paynter. “I was very proud that I was able to be part of this collection.”
Dr. Paynter also wrote a play last summer that was scheduled to be performed at Chaminade in April, but it was cancelled due to COVID-19 restrictions. This summer, she will spend a month participating remotely in a New York University fellowship through the Faculty Resource Network, where she plans to write her first musical.
“I’m a continuous learner,” says Dr. Paynter. “It’s such a joyful process to continue lifelong learning.”
She has that in common with her colleague, Dr. Richard Hill. The associate professor of English at Chaminade University was recently published in the journal Humanities.
“Research and publishing is just something that I really enjoy and have been quite lucky with,” says Dr. Hill. “I am in a small field and it’s really rich to be able to research and do things people have never done before.”
For his recent publication, “From Braemar to Hollywood: The American Appropriation of Robert Louis Stevenson’s Pirates,” he partnered with Dr. Laura Eidam from University of Virginia to explore how today’s popular culture pirate tropes can be traced back to Robert Louis Stevenson’s 1883 novel, Treasure Island.
“I look at stereotypes and try to trace them back to their source,” says Dr. Hill. “Stereotypes get created through literature, and then that literature gets forgotten and you’re left with the stereotype.” His current research explores how illustrations get turned into movies—specifically, how Stevenson’s illustrations get used to create film images.
For Dr. Hill, this historical lense on literature has been a valuable teaching tool. He enjoys taking common perceptions that his students have and tracing them back to historical literary depictions. “I’m lucky that I get to teach some of what I research, and they both feed into each other,” says Dr. Hill “I can bring [my students] through what they know and back into what I teach them.”
His new project is one that is sure to resonate with his students—it explores how the modern day Incredible Hulk is based on Stevenson’s 1886 novel, Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.