Submissions poured in from across the country and from Canada for a chance at being fully produced and staged from March 25 to April 3 at Civic Center Music Hall, but the winning playwright just so happened to live in OCTC’s backyard.
Edmond’s Ranell Collins won for her script, “Dirty Laundry,” a study of a woman stuck in the “sandwich generation,” simultaneously caring for her elderly mother struggling from dementia, and her shiftless son still perched on her couch, despite being in his early 30s.
“Most of my ideas for plays come from observing people around me,” Collins said. “I’ve seen my friends and family who are taking care of their parents, and I felt like it was such a relevant issue that it would be good to put onstage.”
Rachel Irick, OCTC’s associate artistic director and “Dirty Laundry” director, said Collins’ script stood out because of naturalistic dialogue, fully developed characters and a well-crafted story.
above Randy Guild, D.G. Smalling, Ranell Collins, Angie Duke and Josh Irick prep “Dirty Laundry.”
Collins got to collaborate with Irick during production, a situation that, according to Irick, can sometimes make directors feel like the playwright is hovering. That wasn’t the case with “Dirty Laundry.”
“We really have a great collaborative relationship, and we can be very open with each other about how we see the characters or different moments in the play,” Irick said. “Ranell has been very active in the casting process and has been very open to my suggestions for minor revisions, and likewise, it has been very helpful to both me and the actors to be able to turn to her for immediate answers to questions that arise. This process is different, because the play has the potential to evolve during rehearsal.” With a powerful theme of isolation woven throughout the work, Collins said she specifically worked to keep the script from becoming too dreary or emotionally draining for the audience.
“As a writer, you always have to find the humor, and if you are the person living in these difficult situations, you definitely have to find the humor,” she said. “Jenny, the elderly lady, she is very funny. She doesn’t hold back; she is very candid, just like my own grandmother.”
While Collins pens a second play, she wants to get “Dirty Laundry” on other stages, as well as find a publisher for its script. Although she started writing as a child with fiction and poetry, plays are her preferred medium.
“I love writing within the confined area of the stage,” she said. “What you do absolutely has to be about precise, interesting dialogue coming from wellrounded characters. As a writer, that takes discipline and focus. It’s a challenge, which is what I love."