Newman alumna makes playwriting waves

Jan 25, 2018
c.l. smet

Newman alumna Chelsea “C.L.” Smet is no stranger to being honored for her work as a playwright.

In 2015, Smet was a senior working on her theatre performance major at Newman University when she had won a Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival national award for playwriting.

She graduated from Newman that same year and is continuing her education at MidAmerica Nazarene in Olathe, Kansas, where she is working on a degree in theatre education and direction.

She is now in the running for yet another national award.

She submitted a new play, “The Other People,” to the National Partners of the American Theatre (NAPAT) in October 2017 and won her region. The play was then passed on to nationals.

Smet said, “There were approximately 150 plays submitted for eight different regions and mine was chosen for the Kansas region.

“If I win nationals, it’s a full production at Eugene O’Neill Theatre in Washington, D.C. It would be a weeklong production process and I would be mentored by somebody there in putting together a production of their work.”

Chelsea Smet
Chelsea “C.L.” Smet on stage

Smet said she has written six plays so far, two of which were performed at Newman and three are being performed at three colleges this year.  The University of Central Missouri, Newman and MidAmerica Nazarene are all doing one of her plays this year.

“The Other People” will be performed at Newman during the spring semester sometime in April.

The play is a story about young people and how death affects friendship dynamics and lies impact relationships.

“This is the first one I’ve written that felt really personal,” explained Smet. “I was a little more scared about putting this one out there so I was really grateful and humbled that is was chosen for the award.”

She said her plays are often inspired by quotes and “The Other People” was no exception. The inspiration for this play came from a quote in “War and Peace.”

“I outline a play when I begin and as I complete scenes, I have to hear them out loud,” said Smet. “So I host reading parties at my house and I have groups of students come read and provide feedback for me as I go. It can be a time-consuming process for full-length plays, but you need that time to make them work.”

Writing plays will definitely be in her future, she said, “But I have found that I have a passion for teaching in a college setting, so that’s why I’m getting that degree. I want to build a program that focuses on new work development.

“Newman is great at premiering a new play,” she continued, “and there’s something unique about that experience that not a lot of college students get.”

Smet said much of her motivation and inspiration for theater comes from her experience at Newman.

“I say this with 100 percent honesty — if I had not gone to Newman and met Mark (Mannette, director of theatre), and had not been mentored by him, I would never have written a single work. He encouraged and challenged me to write and gave me so many opportunities. People I tell can’t believe how much I got to do.”