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Student writer’s work all play

Photos and Story by

Emma Pattee

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Emma Pattee, a native of Ashland, has some lofty goals.

"My goals include winning the Pulitzer Prize for Drama, having my face on the cover of Time Magazine and turning 18, finally," Pattee said.

These goals aren’t as farfetched as it seems. Pattee didn’t have to wait long for the accolades to rush in on her one-act play, "Waiting for Baby James." The play was selected as one of the top six one-acts in the Pacific Northwest by the Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival. She also won the Davy Marlin Jones Award for playwriting from the Northwest Drama Conference. The play was part of the 2007 Student One Act Festival at the Sylvania Campus.

The Portland Community College student and the group of actors who portray her characters were invited to put on the play at a February theater festival in Laramie, Wyo. The play is about a family’s first Thanksgiving after their son has died in Iraq. Everyone involved is a PCC student: the writer, the director, and all the actors. The student actors are Tamara Sorelli, Danny Fishback, Amanda Modrell and David Gallic. The director is Madeline McClure.

Waiting for Baby JamesThe regional festival included students from seven states, ranging from Alaska to Colorado. This achievement positions Pattee to compete for a spot at the national Kennedy Center festival.

"When I first read the e-mail that ‘Baby James’ had been nominated, I was brushing my teeth in my pajamas," Pattee said. "And, I just started screaming, and basically, I haven’t stopped since. I wrote the play on Thanksgiving as the final for my scriptwriting class. I was very inspired by a book I read, ‘The Long Road Home,’ by Martha Raddatz, where the author described a woman slamming the door in the face of an officer who had come to tell her that her son had died. She figured as long as she didn’t open the door, it wouldn’t be real. This play getting selected is very exciting for me and for the school."

Pattee said that the one-act is not a political play and it is not an issue that is specific to the war in Iraq. It is simply about war and the families that are devastated and destroyed by it. The play was the only one selected that was written by a community college student for a Kennedy Center honor.

Waiting for Baby JamesPattee, who is now in her second year at PCC, was home schooled in Ashland. She was born in San Diego and moved to Ashland where she lived with her family in a solar-powered wood cabin on 40 acres of land outside of town. She moved to Portland in 2006 to become a dual-enrolled student between PCC and Portland State University.

Her main source of inspiration has been Gretchen Icenogle, the PCC Theater Arts program director.

"She opened my eyes to the subtlety and elegance of playwriting and has always challenged me to produce stellar writing," Pattee said. "I took her class last year and became hooked on playwriting."

In her short time at PCC she has co-produced the 2008 Vagina Monologues and is vice president of the PCC Theatre Arts Club. Another goal of hers includes applying to Brown University this fall to major in creative writing.

About James Hill

James G. Hill, an award-winning journalist and public relations writer, has been the Communications Specialist for the Office of Public Affairs at Portland Community College since November of 1999. A graduate of Portland State University, J... more »