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The Scarlet & Black

“A Group Where You Can’t Say Anything” opens as a staged reading in the Wall Theater

Graphic by Elisa Carrasco Lanusse.

Saniya Kelkar 

The student-written short play “A Group Where You Can’t Say Anything” will be performed as a staged reading in the Wall Theater, Bucksbaum 154. The play, written by Grinnell alum Paige Oamek `20, will be read on Friday, Sep. 10, at 7:00 p.m. Caulden Parkel `22 is directing the reading, which stars Emmarose Mills `23 and Addison Marsh `23. 

The play follows a couple, Chase and Alina, who meet in a group therapy session. The coercive relationship between these two characters is at the heart of the play. “It really gets into the dynamic between the two of them and their internal monologues, especially because there’s a significant age and power differential,” Parkel said.

Oamek originally wrote the play as a short story during her second year. Photo contributed by Paige Oamek.

Further exploring the way people express and interpret loneliness, the play focuses on romantic relationships and the unhealthy dynamic that can arise between partners. Oamek described her experience writing the play in the #metoo era and how the story is still relevant today, “It made sense then, and now I think it makes even more sense.” 

The dialogue of the play acts as a stream of consciousness between Chase and Alina. Parkel described how this quality translated to the staged reading, allowing the audience into the heads of the characters. “[They have the] ability to communicate everything nuanced to the audience but the inability to create communication between the two of them because of the tension,” he said. 

Oamek, who graduated with degrees in English and philosophy, originally wrote the play as a short story during her second year. She did not expect to win Grinnell College’s McClenon Clark Playwriting award in the spring of 2020, let alone have the play performed as a staged reading. She missed the deadline for another competition and ended up adapting the short story into a play. Despite the unorthodox path her story took, she is looking forward to seeing it read on stage. 

“Some of it is graphic in nature,” Oamek said, noting that the play explores mature themes, including sex and coercive relationships. “It’s a triggering piece, but hopefully the audience finds some humor and other things in there.” 

Parkel described the moment when he first found out about the play. “Craig, the head of our department, reached out to me about directing it [and] I definitely jumped at the chance.”  

Parkel hopes that the staged reading will work to start conversations about the themes it engages with. “I feel like that’s what all theatre strives or should strive to do,” he said. 

Watch the playwright’s words come to life on stage in the Wall Theater in the Bucksbaum Center for the Arts on Friday at 7:00 p.m. The theatre and dance SEPC will hold a mixer after the staged reading in the front courtyard of the Bucksbaum building. The event is open to all students and faculty.  


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