David Pluebell has always loved to tell a story, ever since he was a 7-year-old child creating comic books in his bedroom.
Now the senior theatre major from Plano, Texas, will get to see one of his stories on stage and under the bright lights. "End of My Rope" is being produced by the University Theatre in a two-day performance May 2-3 in the Walton Fine Arts Center. It will be the world premiere of a play that Pluebell wrote and refined over the past 12 months.
Pluebell, who wrote the play as part of his senior honors course, describes it as a "slightly off-kilter, character-driven dark comedy." He said it was a deeply personal play that stems from him own experiences.
"This comes from my struggles with depression," he said. "It’s kind of difficult to describe the play to people because you start by telling them that it’s a dark comedy about a guy trying to hang himself, and they’re immediately horrified. Then I have to jump in and say, ‘But wait, it gets better.’ "
Pluebell said the protagonist in the play, Christopher, is a reflection of himself.
"Christopher was extremely easy to write for since it was, basically, me," he said. "He has dry sarcasm, he is kind of a gloomy person and he cracks jokes that no one gets."
All of the characters in the play represent aspects of depression, according to Pluebell. Christopher represents the personality and depression itself. Sunny represents hope, Spork represents pain and Alex represents guilt.
"The way I try to look at it is that all of these things happen in the mind of one person," Pluebell said. "I want people to leave this play having a better understanding of depression. A lot of people think that those with depression should just stop being depressed, and it’s not that easy. There are messages about hope, taking the first step and reliance in this play. There is also commentary about the fact that we are all in this together and there are people who can help you."
A passion for storytelling has always been engrained in Pluebell since his childhood days.
"I would hear my friends talk about all the great things they got to do and places they got to travel to and I didn’t have those experiences," he said. "I soon realized I could make up stuff and be a part of an exciting life through stories."
David Pluebell, a senior theatre major from Plano, Texas, turned his love of storytelling into a play, “End of My Rope,” that will be performed by the University Theatre on May 2 and 3 in the Walton Fine Arts Center.
His interest in playwriting was stoked when, as a senior in high school, he won a state-wide contest sponsored by the Texas Education Theatre Association. The play, "Unknowen," was about a man who wakes up in purgatory and knows nothing except that his name is Owen.
"I not only wrote the play, but I got to direct it and pick the costumes and everything," he said. "It was one of the greatest feelings in the world to hear the actors reading lines that you wrote. I was pretty much hooked then."
According to Walton Professor of Theatre Bruce B. Brown, "End of My Rope" is the first student-written play that has been performed as a main stage production by the University Theatre under Brown’s direction since he arrived at Ozarks in 1996.
"Once we started rehearsals, David has been working on editing and further tightening the rhythms and story," said Brown, who is directing the play. "He attends all rehearsals and is there for the actors and me as we work though the story and make adjustments for live performance. It has been an amazing learning experience for everyone involved."
Pluebell said the play has undergone 15 revisions since it was first proposed to Brown in April of 2013.
"I first thought about writing a play for the University Theatre last April and I asked Professor Brown about it and he told me that I would have to have it turned in by the end of the school year to get it on this year’s calendar," Pluebell said. "I wrote the play in about two and a half weeks and have been revising it ever since."
Pluebell, who also designed the scenery for the play, said it has been interesting watching his story come to life on stage during rehearsals.
"Sometimes I am watching it and I’ll think, wow, that works better than I could have written it," he said. "Sometimes you have to abandon your ego because an actor might have a different interpretation of your words. I’ve learned you need to give them freedom to do what they need to do. I’ve even caught myself thinking, wow, that line is really good and funny, forgetting for an instance that I had written it. That’s pretty neat."
Once the production is finished, Pluebell will submit his final script to Samuel French, Inc., for possible publication. Based in New York City, Samuel French is the largest publisher of plays and musicals in the country.
Pluebell, who has starred in numerous University Theatre productions over the past four years, says he would love to find a career that would allow him to both act and write.
"My idols are guys like Mel Brooks and Jim Rash, critically acclaimed writers who are also great actors," Pluebell said. "I truly love both acting and writing."
After graduation, Pluebell plans to focus on writing scripts and plays while pursuing an acting career in the Dallas area. He credits Ozarks for helping him become a well-rounded artist.
"I feel like I’ve learned all aspects of the theatre and that I’m prepared to go out and do a lot of different things," he said. "I believe that the theatre program at Ozarks has given me all the skills and tools I need to be successful in this field that I love."