Celt sophomore debuts first play via Willamette virtual offerings

Kiele Jarnagin honed her playwriting chops through an online course at Willamette University (Submitted).

 Since middle school, McNary High sophomore Kiele Jarnagin has developed a passion for theater and writing, so when her English teacher, Andrew Tennant, told her about a free playwriting course that Willamette University was offering for high schoolers, she knew she had to sign up.

Jarnagin, who aspires to be a drama teacher someday, was one of 13 students from around the state that participated in the course, which took place over Zoom, where students would meet virtually on Thursdays for three hours over a 10-week period. 

“I was a little nervous at first, but I had so much fun. I honestly wasn’t expecting to have as much fun as I did,” Jarnagin said. “I loved that I was able to make friends with people around the state that shared the same interests as me.”

Jarnagin had her doubts about taking another class over Zoom in her free time, but was pleasantly surprised with how the class was facilitated.

“I thought it was going to be difficult to formulate connections with people virtually, but the class went smoothly and was really interactive and enjoyable,” Jarnagin said. 

The class was taught by Ellen Lewis, an award-winning playwright from Silverton who is a member of LineStorm Playwrights, Opera America and the Dramatists Guild.  

“Mrs. Lewis was one of the kindest teachers I have ever had, but I felt like she was really good at giving me constructive criticism and helping me develop a more transitional play,” Jarnagin said.  

Over the course of the class, each student crafted a 10-minute short play, which will be performed by Willamette actors for the students who participated in the class later this month — the plays aren’t available for the public. 

Jarnagin’s play revolves around two female best friends in their late 20s that do everything together. When one of the women starts displaying some erratic behavior, the other woman does some investigating to try and find out why her friend is acting out — she discovers it’s because she is afraid to fly to her sister’s wedding because her mom died while on a plane.

Jarnagin was inspired to write this story due to the importance of the close friendships in her life — as well as her fear of flying. 

“I am scared of flying and turbulence, but I also have really good friends that I know would be there for me,” Jarnagin said. 

Even though Jarnagin wrote scripts for assemblies in middle school and is currently a part of the McNary theater program, she didn’t have much experience in scriptwriting before this class, which is why she felt that this educational opportunity had a huge impact on her. 

“I really feel like the class helped me involve myself in all the different aspects of theater and bringing them all together to create a show,” Jarnagin said. “I learned a lot about character development and going in depth with a character’s personality. I can’t wait to write more scripts in the future.”

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