How do we make sense of life? One way is writing about it – either directly, like in a journal, or indirectly, like through fictional characters’ experiences. A third option is a hybrid – autobiographical/semi-autobiographical dramatization of actual events and people.
The first live
I find Owen inside Klarman Hall, where he’s getting some work done. We go out to the Arts Quad to take a photo of him for this piece and meet for real, i.e. without masks on. Always feels strange but nice.
Back in Klarman for the conversation, I ask Owen how it’s been going since the show closed a few days ago. He’s had multiple midterms in the past two days, but seems to be going strong. The show, in rehearsals for most of September, surely was a focus of the beginning of the year, but work didn’t stop just because of that. “Even during the performance weekend, I still had stuff to do,” he says. “And after each show at Schwartz I’d go back to Milstein Hall and work. A lot of back and forth. Luckily my parents were in town so it was a quick back and forth.”
Indeed, Bob and Juli
Owen’s response to how this piece came to the stage brims with serendipity. “In
Michael Stoddard is one of the reasons Owen is
Producing Saving for 17 may have been even more surreal, or “weird” as Owen deems this whole experience. As an actor, he is used to portraying characters who are not him. Here, he directed others in a story that was very much his own, even if dramatized for intrigue and comedy. What helped Owen take on the role of a director was imagining being cast as one. “Once I realized that, it was easy. My character wasn’t a person but the plot. And I got my notebook and was like, ‘Let’s get this show on the road.
I’m curious how it felt to share this story with the Cornell community. “It's a level of vulnerability that I have never really experienced before,” Owen says. “In Miami there’s one me. Here in college there’s another me. This was bringing them together. And I guess I've matured enough that I'm game to share experiences with people I don't even know. That's a prospect I didn't even think of when I wrote the show.” Perhaps that was what made it possible to infuse the play with so much honesty and realness (even if, again, dramatized for comedy and intrigue).
One of the most striking moments in the play is when Owen’s alter ego Oliver is painting a fence, then stops and says, “I know you all are there,” followed by a monologue directed at the audience. When asked about that bit, Owen admits to sometimes imagining an audience in his daily life and breaking the fourth wall. “I know you all are there,” he says, and maybe they indeed are. I’m glad I asked about this: it’s fascinating how something so theatrical can be grounded in reality and not be born out of the dramatization process.
Looking back on those actual
In addition to the cast, his family, Michael Stoddard and the PMA faculty and staff, Owen would like to thank Jack Donnellan, Jack McManus and Julianna Lee for their help making the show a reality.