Imagine unabashedly baring the contents of your most personal inner workings to an audience of over 100 strangers: it is a scary contemplation for most. USM graduate Jennifer Bowdish thinks so too, but she’s ready to face the crowd and the criticisms that may come with it. Bowdish who graduated from USM seven years ago with a bachelors degree in theater is presently the center of attention in the theater department. Her play, “We All Fall Down” written in Prof. Walter Stump’s playwriting class last year, will be performed next week through the efforts of the Theater Department.
Each year, one play is chosen from Stump’s playwriting class to be transformed into a live production with sets, lights, costumes and players. Bowdish, who has worked closely with Stump in her previous playwriting efforts, is not a novice to any part of the process, including the production of her own play. Having taken Prof. Stump’s class before, Bowdish’s first play a one act entitled “And Sometimes We Just Listen To Each Other Breathe,” had also been chosen to visit the stage.
Bowdish’s second play, an intimate portrayal of her “tragic” inner self is set in Vermont in 1949. “We All Fall Down” simultaneously weaves and unfurls the mysteries of dysfunction haunting one family. Cass, a young woman living alone with a mother of failing mental health, and Ethan, a young man just back from the war, rediscover one another as adults and begin to engage in a sweet romance.
This romance is soon threatened by the return of Ella, Cass’s older sister. As the mother continues to deteriorate and secrets are revealed, Cass and Ella struggle to accept the past, the present and the possibilities of the future.
Bowdish’s characters, dynamic when posed against each other are simple rural folks who successfully elicit joy, pain and reflection through their traumas and sweet moments.
“I felt like I wasn’t made of the right cloth,” Bowdish said when rationalizing her reasons for fleeing the stage life. Retreating into the hills Bowdish has kept herself occupied the last seven years with a variety of endeavors.
“I’m all over the map when it comes to life experience” Bowdish said after recounting her recent adventures as a snowboard instructor and landscaper. Deciding “it was time for [her] to be creative again.” Abandoned her ski bum freedoms, and enrolled as an unmatriculated student a class that she was well familiar with- Prof. Stump’s playwriting course.
Never keeping a diary or a journal, Bowdish did not consider herself a writer. In fact, the idea for “We All Fall Down” lay dormant for five years before it ever materialized on paper. The success of her few ventures in writing have convinced her that she can be a writer if she chooses. Just recently, she began developing an idea for a new piece.
“You have to give yourself the opportunity to suck,” said Bowdish, or you’ll never be great.
The opportunity to return to a piece of writing to amend and improve upon it doesn’t disappear. Because of this constant state of flux Bowdish considers writing a “forgiving” practice. She also compares it to life and the individual journey.
“When you think things will be one way, something turns you around and they’re not,” she said, referring simultaneously to life and writing.
“I’ve been shoved down a few staircases in my life,” Bowdish said. For now, Bowdish is taking it easy, but she’s fully anticipating morphing into a package of rattling nerves on opening night.
“We All Fall Down” will be running at the St. Lawrence Arts Community Center on Congress St. from Dec.10 to 14 at 7:30p.m. Tickets can be obtained by calling the USM box office at 780-5151.