Campus News 2009

For Immediate Release
January 28, 2009

SU student playwright hits big in the Windy City

Schreiner University might have a comparatively small theatre department, but it seems to turn out more than its fair share of successful playwrights in recent years. Justin Cooper ’99 has had several productions and a prestigious nomination for his play Wood.

And sophomore Chris Fontanes traveled to Chicago in December, where the Chicago Institute of Fine Arts produced his play “The Broken Words,” which saw its first production on the Schreiner stage in February 2008.

“Going to Chicago was a very unnerving experience for me,” Fontanes said. “Chicago makes San Antonio, Austin, Dallas, all of them seem tiny. It was hard to believe that my show was going to be put on in this huge, overwhelming place. It meant the world to me to have them do it. I just wrote the thing. They took it and made it their baby.”

Fontanes credits his work at Schreiner for his success.

“Schreiner gave me a place to let my work evolve and turn into something greater,” he said. “I am just a small, lucky fish in a much bigger pond with all the great people here that write for the stage—Prari Blair, Zach Salcich, Kristen Glass—it could have been any one of them. You have to understand that our little department is doing seven original world-premiere shows this year. Seven! I don't know of any other school that has put on that many original shows in the last five years.”

Dr. Claudia Sullivan, professor of theatre and communication, said that Fontanes had come to Schreiner planning to be an English major.

“He soon became involved in the theatre department and that serendipity led him to find his true voice, that of a ‘poet of the stage,’ in other words, a playwright. His vision is for the stage and his words are of the poet. He has to give that voice a place to be heard, to be fleshed out, and I am proud that Schreiner can be a venue for new voices to showcase their words and works. We are small but that gives our students, especially our theatre students, a great opportunity to work with professionals and have their work critiqued by professionals and audiences. We are proud of Chris’ work and happy to see it accepted in other theatres around the region and country.”

Fontanes said that other companies are interested in “The Broken Words,” his play “The Rain Sessions,” which was produced at Schreiner last year, and his current play, “Blackwater,” which will have its world premiere at Schreiner Feb. 12 and 13.

“Schreiner gives you a chance to put on a show like “The Broken Words,” and it gets picked up elsewhere, like Chicago, and then goes on and on and on. But it started here. And that says great things about Dr. Sullivan, Jeff Cunningham and all the way to Dr. Summerlin for giving us a home for our work, for giving all of us a home—probably the most creative, talented, smallest and under-funded theatre company in the world.”

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