Student Playwrights for Innovative Theater, or SPIT, is a new club in CSUN’s English Department that provides a forum for aspiring playwrights to showcase and perform their work.
After realizing that the campus did not offer students a venue in which they could showcase their talent, Marcel Hill and a friend created SPIT during the Spring 2004 semester.
“As far as we knew, we didn’t know of a club on campus (where) writers had the chance to showcase their work,” said Marcel Hill, president of SPIT.
Logan Strain, SPIT secretary, agreed with Hill and said playwrighting on campus was underrepresented.
“(CSUN) has a senior seminar for poetry and fiction, if you want that to be your concentration, but they don’t have one for playwrighting,” Strain said.
According to Hill, he had to wait two months to establish the club and get it to be recognized by the university. In order to accomplish recognition, he had to attend A.S. meetings and draft a constitution for the club.
“We had to go to a bunch of A.S. meetings and workshops,” Hill said. “At the workshops we were taught to advertise, get members, (and) also had to get 15-20 signatures from people saying that the university needed a club like SPIT.”
SPIT operates from funds given by the university, but its members also hold fundraisers that help them get money for things that the club may need, Hill said.
According to Strain, the club reaches out to not only playwrights, but also to students in other majors, as well as anyone who feels they can contribute to the club by offering other talents and skills besides writing.
“We have sociology majors, music majors, and some philosophy majors,” Strain said. “(Members) don’t have to write, as long as they feel they can get involved and help in other ways.”
Currently, the club has approximately 20 members, and they are constantly looking for more talent to join the SPIT team.
“We are looking for actors and web designers and anyone who can help the club,” Hill said.
According to Hill and Strain, the club has more to offer than just being a forum for playwrights. It also provides its members with an opportunity to attend monthly workshops where they can present their plays and receive constructive criticism from other members of SPIT.
“Workshops are held every first Sunday of every month,” Strain said. “We read through plays that we are given, and we offer suggestions and ways to improve it.”
Besides the monthly workshops, the club also offers students an opportunity to discover their passion for writing.
“What we try to do is encourage people to write,” Hill said. “Once you start writing, you discover that you enjoy writing. Then it doesn’t become so scary.”
Hill and Strain have been able to reap the benefits of the club by taking advantage of what the club has to offer. For example, Hill was afraid to permit people to read his writing because he was afraid people would not accept it.
“I used to be like that,” Hill said. “But writing, in a sense, is like your personality. Every writer has their own style and not everyone will always like it.”
Hill added that once you overcome this fear, you become a better writer.
“As a writer, it is important to know where you fit in, finding your niche,” Hill said.
A second benefit that SPIT offers to students is that the club does not require its members to attend meetings regularly, but rather allows its members to put in whatever time they have available.
“What’s cool about our club is that it’s a relaxed environment,” Hill said. “The members we have now like it because of that.”
According to Strain, students are afraid to join clubs because they feel they will be required to devote all their time to the club’s needs. But under the club’s constitution, members are only required to attend two meetings a month to be considered a member.
“You just have to have an interest in playwrighting,” Strain said. “Nothing (else) is demanded. We are willing to accept any time that people are willing to give (to) SPIT.”
This semester, SPIT has created a free Overnight Theater event, which will be held at The Pub on April 22. At this two-hour event, several poems and 10-minute plays will be performed from scripts written by SPIT members.
“The night before the event, (the playwrights) have to write a scene and the next day it is practiced and performed,” Strain said. “(The play is) written, directed and rehearsed in 24 hours.”
Although this is the first time SPIT has put this event together, they hope to produce this event once every semester.
For the Overnight Theater event, SPIT recruited actors from CSUN as well as from outside the university. This is a difficult task for the actors because they have only 24 hours to memorize the script and then perform it.
“We get actors who are willing to help us for this event,” Strain said. “We are very grateful because it’s a difficult thing to do.”
Besides the Overnight Theater event, SPIT hopes to broadcast radio shows and create guerilla theater.
According to Hill, he was inspired to create guerilla theater by Luis Valdez, a Latino writer who began his writing career by standing behind his truck and performing poetry and plays.
Hill and Strain are very excited to have SPIT established at CSUN and encourage students to join the club and participate in their events. They also believe SPIT can help people become better writers.
“SPIT helps people to write,” Strain said. “Scripts are often compared to sheet music. Sheet music is not music until it is played. A script is not a play until it is performed. You have to see your work performed in order to better understand your work.”