My major area of study at the University of Illinois was playwriting. Professor Webster Smalley was my instructor and mentor. I participated in playwriting workshop in the summer of 1966 and developed a full-length play, You've Met Charlie, Haven't You? I entered it in the Nebraska Sesquicentennial Playwriting Competition and won second place in 1967. Professor Roman Tymchyshyn was the most inspirational figure in my second year of graduate work at U. of I. as I shifted my focus to creative drama and theatre for the child audience. Little did I know that my chosen field had been imbedded in my heart since a child and had actually started in seventh grade. Writing for children had begun as the result of a punishment for talking in class. Both myself and classmate, Linda were reprimanded by being sent to the principal's office with the added requirement that we adapt some old folk tales into plays to be cast and performed for the benefit for of some primary grades if they warranted it.
Linda and I set to work on Billy Goats Gruff and another one. I've forgotten the final outcome, but now realize it was a spark of things to come. I often was the entertainment committee of one with children at family reunions and fancied myself a "Catcher in the Rye."
Roman Tymchyshyn rekindled that love of entertaining children with my love of teaching and introduced me to educational theatre by means of creative drama and theatre for the child audience in the Northwestern tradition of Winifred Ward and Geraldine Siks among other. I took the c.d. experience with the old English folktale, The Three Sillies and adapted it into a play for children at Illinois State University as part of the Illinois State Repertory Company tour of Central Illinois elementary schools. The vehicle combined a short reader's theatre version with a rehearsal section and finally a short stage play with production elements all under fifty minutes. The production garnered a lot of favorable reaction and launched my career in participatory theatre. I continued to write plays for the child audience which I hoped would be entertaining to adults as well including: A Real Fast Caterpillar, Roma Stone Soup, and Prometheus Unbound.
While at Illinois State University I was given great support as a playwright. I had plays for the adult audience produced in the Mable Clare Allen Lab Theatre: In Emerald, The American Ghost, and Shakespeare Now! At the Capen Auditorium I wrote and produced an agit-prop piece entitled Theatre Engage or Theodore Deadman. My Sci-Fi adaptation of Shakespeare's The Tempest , Tempest II toured with the Illinois State Repertory Company to several High Schools in Central Illinois.
After several lean years as a playwright, I returned to college teaching and while teaching at Richland Community College in Decatur, Illinois I wrote sun moon stars rain , a participatory play for children, revived The Three Sillies and A Real Fast Caterpillar, and co- adapted with Terry Powell a passion play entitled The Crown of Thorns. Three short plays of mine were accepted to be read at the Last Frontier Theatre Conference in Valdez, Alaska: The Last Best Hope, The Last Rehearsal, and Freedom Shall Stand. The Last Best Hope was produced in several difference versions by Richland Community College with actors De Carlos Adams and Robert Ingram Jr. playing Frederick Douglass.
The first act of House of Cards was read at The Great Plains Theatre Conference in Omaha, Nebraska.
My full length plays: A perfect Stranger, House of Cards, and Aurora's Children remain unproduced. ( Although the titles were scooped beforehand.) The rewrites will require fresh titles. Prudence, a play about Prudence Crandall was given a television treatment before I could get my version off the ground.
Three short plays completed which may be re-submitted soon are Though Love Be a Day, Freak Ass Friday, and Brook's All In.
The Three Sillies - Free Download
The participatory play, The Three Sillies is offered royalty free for production. However, please contact me, Lonn Pressnall for permission to download the file in agreement to produce the play as written and to acknowledge the author on programs and publicity. Please notify me as to when The Three Sillies is to be performed.
"The Three Sillies is the most imaginative and creative approach to children's theatre that I've seen. Its use of audience involvement is natural and unselfconcious. There is good humor in it. Our premiere production remains my favorite Children's Theatre experience."
-Calvin Lee Pritner, Illinois State University