St. Mary Catholic High School will produce the World Premiere of Bethany Paulsen’s relevant new drama-Castlewood.
During the London Blitz of 1940, young Winifred is sent to join her sister in the English countryside to escape the horrors of the war. When she arrives, she encounters Edwin, a young eccentric boy, whose imagination and friendship provides her solace and companionship. They escape their reality by creating a world together in the woods. Castlewood is a coming-of-age exploration of escapism, grief, and what it means to be happy.
First workshopped at the University of Idaho’s MFA program, Castlewood addresses both the joys and consequences of becoming consumed by our imagination in efforts to avoid the reality of our circumstances. Playwright Bethany Paulsen-describes the spark behind writing this piece:
As a child, world building, escapism, and safety was found in bedsheet fortresses, linen closet hideaways and valiant battles fought with sticks among the brush of a desert backyard. Castlewood was created from the recesses of childhood memory, and lingering childlike imagination. It is an exploration of escapism, perception, loss, and growing up. Although a piece intended for all ages, I find this piece most relevant for students as it speaks to the many “adult” circumstances they are subjected to at a young age. I am thrilled to have this piece originated by high schoolers as I believe they bring an innocence and poignancy to the piece. My hope is that audiences will enter Castlewood with childlike wonder, suspending their disbelief, and exit with self reflection and a fresh perspective on what it means to share in the human experience.
“But someday you will be old enough to start reading fairy tales again.” –C.S. Lewis Director, Jessica Lynn French had this to say regarding the production:
This play is so unique. It is one of the most refreshing and endearing scripts I have come across in a long time. The students I have cast are from my advanced acting class at St.
Mary Catholic High School who is producing this world premiere. Just like the characters in this play, I have seen these young people journey through some difficult circumstances. I believe that giving them this opportunity is not only a gift to them but also to the audience. The actors have really connected with their characters and have found the content of this play to be extremely relatable to their world that is so often filled with everyday distractions. Those who come to see this production will leave with a sense of self reflection that will hopefully result in a deeper human connection with those around them. I really see collaborations like this as the future of educational theatre.
Senior student, Brody Adams, who will be attending Belmont University’s School of Theatre and Dance in the fall, shared what Castlewood has meant for him:
I am very excited to originate the role of Edwin! This is a special opportunity for me as my final high school production as I will have no other actor’s portrayals to draw upon to influence my own. I am enjoying the artistic freedom and challenge of it all.
This marks the second World Premiere of a production for director Jessica Lynn French, featuring seniors, Eden Marshall (Winnie), Brody Adams (Edwin), and junior, Laura Harness (Fern) for the Friday evening performance. The Saturday evening cast will feature freshman, Eva Radtke (Winnie) and sophomore, Isaiah Plutz (Edwin). An additional performance featuring the premiere cast may be added should tickets sell out.
The creative team for Castlewood includes Jessica Lynn French (Set Design), Eric Conner (Lighting and Sound Design), and senior student, Julia Lukasik (Costume Designer). Senior student, Taylor Foord will serve as the Stage Manager. The school’s Stagecraft class is part of the production team.
More on Playwright, Bethany Paulsen
Bethany Paulsen is an actress, artistic director and playwright residing in Virginia Beach, VA. She has worked as a performing artist and musician for over 18 years. As a playwright, Bethany is thrilled to have had several of her works produced in Illinois, Virginia, Idaho and now, Wisconsin. Bethany is the founder and original artistic director of Shadowbox Productions, a student run production company out of Chicago, IL. She currently works as an artistic director and playwright for Young Musicians of Virginia, and various theaters in the Virginia Beach area. Bethany is currently finishing her MFA in Directing and Playwriting program through the University of Idaho.
More on Director, Jessica Lynn French
Jessica Lynn French is a director and teaching artist originally from Detroit. Directing credits include: Queen E The Reluctant Royal (New York Musical Festival at Playwrights Horizons’ Niarchos Studio); Les Miserables (Lexington, MA), Cinderella (Lexington, MA),
Fiddler on the Roof (Oscoda, MI), Anne of Green Gables (Virtual), and Little Women (Virtual). Ms. French began performing professionally at the age of eleven in the National
Tour of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. After completing her studies at Interlochen Arts Academy, she received her Bachelor of Music in Vocal Performance from The Boston Conservatory of Music. She went on to do a fellowship with the Nashville Opera while getting her Master of Music in Vocal Pedagogy and Voice Performance from Belmont University. In 2020, Ms. French received her Master of the Arts in Education with a focus on trauma-informed theatre classrooms. Favorite performance roles include: Mother Abbess in The Sound of Music, Miss Hannigan in Annie, Augusta Tabor in The Ballad of Baby Doe, La Zia Principessa in Suor Angelica, and Kate in The Pirates of Penzance. Ms. French launched a musical theatre album entitled “Songs I Can Sing from Roles I’ll (Probably) Never Play” and performed a Cabaret style album release concert at The Laurie Beechman Theater. Ms. French taught a musical theatre masterclass at the newly opened Studio Paulsen, the first ever professional actors training center in Guayaquil, Ecuador. She also enjoys voice over work, recording with MTI (Music Theater International) and previously served as a vocal coach for Sockeye Media’s Mother Goose Club, a YouTube sensation with over 9 million subscribers! During her time as a New York City resident, Ms. French served as Teaching Artist for Broadway Bound Kids and The Metropolitan Opera Guild She is a proud member of AGMA (American Guild of Musical Artists) and is currently serving as the Artistic Director of Bright Light Productions. She runs a private voice and acting studio out of Neenah, WI and her students have been in Broadway National Tours, on stage at the Metropolitan Opera, in major films, and featured on shows like The Voice and American Idol.