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McMicken Goes to the Aronoff

'Lost Girls,' a play written and directed by two A&S alums, will be featured in Cincinnati Playwrights Initiative's New Voices Series.

Date: 8/17/2009
By: Kim Burdett
Phone: (513) 556-8577
Photos By: Provided by Ellen Morris, Marc Roland and Cincinnati Playwrights Initiative
Communication alumna Ellen Birkett Morris regularly traipses the ground where 12-year-old Russian immigrant Ann Gotlib was last seen. Near the Louisville neighborhood where Morris resides, the young girl was abducted in 1983, never to be seen again.

Cincinnati Playwrights Initiative.
Cincinnati Playwrights Initiative will have a night of staged readings at the Aronoff Center, where Morris's play will be featured.

As art imitates life, the case inspired Morris to write a 10-minute short play, called “Lost Girls,” that fictionalizes a young woman returning to an abduction site to honor a young girl who was taken there.

“Each year she commemorates the event by leaving something for the girl that would be indicative of her age,” Morris explains. “For example, she leaves an old set of car keys when the girl would have been 16. When the girl would turn 21, she leaves a bottle of whiskey.”

Since Morris received her MA in communication arts from University of Cincinnati in 1989, she has divided her time between freelance journalism and creative writing. “Lost Girls” started as a short story, but Morris soon realized it could transform into a play with little staging. She sent it into the Actors Theatre of Louisville’s National Ten-Minute Play Contest and ended up a finalist for the 2008 Heideman Award for the play.

“There’s just so much potential with plays and so many wonderful things can be done,” she says. “And there are so many great, small regional theaters. Plays are definitely something I’m going to continue to pursue.”

Only the second play she has ever written, she received word from Cincinnati Playwrights Initiative that they wanted to feature her play in their New Voices series, an evening of three short plays at the Aronoff Center for the Arts.

New Voices Staged Readings
UC alumni Ellen Birkett Morris and Marc Roland
"Lost Girls"
When: Tues., Sept. 15, 2009 at 7:30 p.m.
Where: Aronoff Center for the Arts
: $7 for adults, $4 for students

Ellen Birkett Morris.
Morris graduated with a master's in communication arts in 1989.

Marc Roland.
Marc Roland is a lawyer who dabbles in performing arts in his spare time.

When they allowed her to choose her own director and actor for the play, she immediately thought of longtime friend and fellow UC graduate Marc Roland, a lawyer from Lexington who spends his free time acting, directing and producing in community theater.

“Marc and I went to UC together and we both got our masters in communication,” she says, reminiscing about the intense year of courses that helped them form a friendship. “We’ve just kept in touch over the years and cultivated a friendship that’s lasted 20 years since we graduated.”

Yet they’ve never actually worked together. When Morris asked Roland to direct “Lost Girls,” it sparked the first collaboration between the two.

“Writing a play is very difficult to begin with, but to write a 10-minute play, you need to have a grasp of the character and what kind of reaction you want the audience to have,” Roland says, whose most recent productions include acting in “Six Degrees of Separation,” directing “Tuna Christmas” and producing “Lot’s Daughters.” “Ellen needs to consider doing more because she’s really packed a lot of good stuff into this play.”

Overall, the two are excited to join forces on a common interest.

“It’s a neat thing,” Roland says. “Who would have thought that 20 years later, we’d be doing something like this? I never would have imagined it.”

For more information about “Lost Girls” and the New Voices Staged Readings, visit the Cincinnati Arts Association Web site.

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