SRU theatre instructor pens new play; debuts Oct. 14


deanna brookens in the multi-purpose room theatre

Deanna Brookens, Slippery Rock University instructor of theatre, will debut her original play, “December Things,” Oct. 14 in the University Union’s Multi-Purpose Room.

Oct. 5, 2016

SLIPPERY ROCK, Pa. - Two years and 60 pages. That's what it took for Deanna Brookens to weave together a tale of love; compassion and anguish with a critique on capitalism and a bit of magic thrown in for good measure.

The result is "December Things," an original play penned by the Slippery Rock University instructor of theatre. A seven-show run is scheduled Oct. 14-20 in the University Union's Multi-Purpose Room.

SRU students will present the play, which focuses on a pair of 30-something office employees who are both navigating personal challenges in addition to dealing with a boss who Brookens describes as "a capitalistic warlord with a vendetta against joy."

However, during the course of the play, the characters find that the winds of change are in the air, as are plenty of surprises.

"The play explores common themes such as the struggle between good and evil, but also addresses individual human anguish and dissatisfaction," said Brookens. "I want to encourage audience members to contemplate the possibility that much of life's suffering could be avoided by banding together and focusing on the principles of love and compassion over possessions.

"I wrote this play because I hate seeing people suffer in ways that I think can actually be avoided. There is of course, the inevitable suffering that arises, often, from the loss of love. But if you have tended your personal garden - and by that I mean if you make the choice day in and day out to live a life that extends from a place of love and compassion - then why should you be forced to comply with a system that doesn't do the same?"

Brookens said she realizes there is a great deal of controversy surrounding the social and economic systems of capitalism and socialism, but that neither she, nor the play, is taking sides in the debate. "I realize that there is a philosophical quandary that I am tossing around here, and I'm in no way suggesting that I have solved the answers to the world's problems," she said. "I'm merely looking for the audience to consider examine their priorities."

She said witnessing seemingly needless suffering has bothered her since childhood and that she has always daydreamed about a life in which people don't have to endure so much disappointment.

While the play features elements of conflict and criticism, Brookens said she wrote the piece in celebration of humanity. "It's a strange and wonderful thing to be alive and capable of love and pain and fear and hope," she said.

Brookens said another contributing factor in writing the play was her deep appreciation of words and wit.

"There is very little else that makes me happier than a bizarrely turned phrase or a breathtaking verbal image," she said. "So I thought 'Hey, maybe I'll do this word writing thing and see if anyone else digs it, too.'"

"December Things" will be presented at 7:30 p.m., Oct. 14-15 and Oct. 17-20, with a 2 p.m. matinee Oct. 16.

Following the Oct. 17-18 performances, Brookens, Laura Smiley, associate professor of theatre, and Cindy LaCom, professor of English and gender studies, will lead discussions about some of the issues presented in the play.

The cast includes:

  • Cassie Blitz, a theatre major from New Kensington, as Molly;
  • Kristina Streno, a theatre major from Washington, as Nell;
  • Cole Vecchio, a theatre major from Bradford, as Kit;
  • Tyler Hahn, a theatre major from Hanover, as Mason; and
  • Lawrence Karl, a psychology major from Moon, as Crawford

Designers, technicians and production staff features:

  • Zachary Shafer, a theatre major from Susquehanna, stage manager;
  • Phillip Bova, an English major from Allegheny, assistant stage manager;
  • Emma Cummings, a theatre major from Goshen, New York, assistant stage manager;
  • Kaitlin Cliber, a theatre major from New Kensington, as scenic designer;
  • Gabriella Petro, a theatre major from Apollo, sound designer;
  • Emily Manzo, a theatre major from Vilseck, Germany, assistant lighting designer;
  • Gabriella Petro, a theatre major from Apollo, public relations
  • Lyric Ackelson, an arts administration and nonprofit leadership major from Butler, house manager;
  • Paige Morgans, a marketing major from Bloomsburg, box office manager;
  • Jordan Semonovich, a theatre major from Pittsburgh, sound board operator;
  • Deb Cohen, professor emeritus of modern languages and cultures, light board operator;
  • Rebecca Morrice, associate professor of theatre, costume designer;
  • Debra Holmes, instructor of theatre, lighting designer; and
  • Michael Boone, technical director for the theatre department, technical assistant.

Tickets, $8 for students and $12 for the general public, are available at the Smith Student Center Information Desk, or online with a $2 convenience fee at:

For additional information, call: 724.738.4926.

MEDIA CONTACT: Gordon Ovenshine | 724.738.4854 |