During the Spring 2022 semester, Dylan Todd Brown ’23 learned that he was going to be able to direct a play for his senior capstone. The plan was to identify a group of actors and then write a play specifically for them — a perfect way to blend his passion for directing and scriptwriting — but a family tragedy that summer made Dylan change how he would pursue his capstone.
“At the end of July in 2022, my dad — Micheal Todd Brown — passed away and so I pivoted and decided to write a play about him,” Dylan says. “The first draft only took me about a week to write. The end result of what was performed was about the fifth draft because I worked on it and kept writing it even as we were rehearsing it and adding new scenes, and changing the scenes to make it better for the actors. I was working on writing it up until about two weeks before it was performed.”
In February, Dylan’s play, Things Left Behind, Or Memories of my Father, was performed in the studio of the Friederich Theater. The play is somewhat of a metatheatrical exploration of grief and a man trying to make sense of his father’s death by reliving the memories that he has of his father.
“It was hard, but it was also really cathartic and therapeutic. While working on it, it kind of felt like he was still alive, so it was nice to get to bring him back to life with my art and share him with people, like the people in the Theatre Department, who really never knew him because he was always on the road,” Dylan says. “My dad was a semi-truck driver. It was nice to be able to share him with all my friends and all the Theatre faculty and students here.”
Ben Cromwell, Assistant Professor of English, and Jason Halbleib, an Adjunct in the Theatre Department, helped Dylan with his revisions, and Cromwell portrayed his uncle in the play. Also in the play were Andy Felt, Associate Professor of Theatre, who portrayed Dylan’s father, and Felt’s daughter, Tilly, who played Dylan’s sister as a child. Andrew Konjevich ’23, who is an Information Systems major with a Theatre minor, played Dylan.
“I’m extremely proud of what Andrew did and how far he came from the beginning to the end,” Dylan says. “He really knocked it out of the park. I could not have asked for a better cast; everyone was terrific.”
Dylan says Cromwell and Halbleib helped with his concerns about writing, read every draft, and then met him to talk about what was working and what was not.
“He’s a good guy,” Cromwell says. “He has a lot of life experience and a lot of talent. He was always open to revising his work, and he took the critique process seriously. He has a lot of these different pieces that make him a really sound writer.”
Cromwell says the blue-collar narrative that Dylan creates is something special and not often highlighted in scriptwriting.
Dylan says he was very lucky that everyone who was involved cared about it just as much as he did and enjoyed working hard together. He also loved that it was a collaborative project. During rehearsals, he asked for their ideas so he could make the best possible experience for them and find as many similarities as possible between them — the actors — and the real-life people they were playing.
“Yes, it was definitely healing,” Dylan says. “I did have a bit of a wave of depression once the show was over, but I do have plans to keep working on it in the future. I wrote it as a ‘one act,’ and I have plans to expand it into a full-length play.”
A few months after he graduates with a BFA in Directing with a Focus on Playwriting, Dylan plans to teach English in Japan, a job he would like to do until returning to the States for graduate school. He appreciates what the Theatre Department has provided to him — not just for supporting him during the creation of his original play — and recommends Marietta to anyone interested in studying the arts.
“The good thing about Marietta’s Theatre Department, since it is a smaller program, it’s a really good way to get the best-rounded theatre education because you get trained in a lot of different things, as opposed to if you go to a conservatory, where you’re pretty much forced into training in only one thing. Here, I’ve gotten training as an actor, as a director, a playwright, a stage manager, a sound designer, a set designer, and a lighting designer. I have enjoyed a well-rounded education, and I could potentially work in a lot of different fields after graduation.”