Student Ellis Stump's Play 'The People's Toast' Published
BY Amanda Breen, December 1, 2020
Playwriting student Ellis Stump’s one-act play series The People’s Toast has been published in print by Vaclav Havel Library Foundation as the winner of their 2019 Playwriting Competition. Copies are available at Vaclav Havel’s New York City library and in local bookstores.
Contestants were invited to submit short dramas based on the theme “Ferdinand Vanek Today,” and each entry was evaluated on its creativity, its ability to provoke thought, its understanding of Ferdinand Vanek’s role, and its originality in adapting that role to the modern day. Structure and organization were also considered. The jury members included Marcy Arlin, the founder of the OBIE-winning Immigrants’ Theatre Project; Edward Einhor, a playwright, director, translator, librettist, and novelist; and Jakub Skorpil, a translator, actor, and director.
The People’s Toast is an experimental contemporization of Vaclav Havel’s Vanek plays. Stump’s three-part series explores global activism and influence today. In it, the femme-identifying Vaneka has just been relased from prison; she takes a job as a waitress at a Prague bistro and struggles to navigate contemporary consumerism. She “is drowned by her boss's despair, insulted and conditioned by her own iPhone, and visited by petty, privileged pals whose suggested coping mechanisms include vaping and downward dog.”
Stump’s prize includes a two-week residency in Prague with classes across various departments at the Academy of Performing Arts (DAMU), visits to Prague theatres, a stage reading of her winning play prepared by DAMU and the Vaclav Havel Library in Prague, and a round-trip air ticket to Prague as well as accommodation.
Stump’s work delves into “the catharsis and growth of our Selves, relationships, and evolving world, through experimental absurdism, Jewish existentialism, optimistic imagination, and intersectionality.” She organizes, directs, designs, and performs interactive storytellings, incorporating research and live collaboration. Stump is also a youth theatre educator. She currently teaches virtually and is working on collaborations with educational teams at Harvard University and SMARTS Collaborative.
Her full-length plays have been produced by NY Theater Festival, the Bertolt Brecht Symposium in Prague, Iowa State University, Pennsylvania State School of Theatre and Honors College, State College Theatre, Eastend Elementary, and Untitled Theater Co. #61 in New York City.
In 2019, Stump graduated from Pennsylvania State Schreyer Honors College with a BA in English and Film. She was a Donald Bellisario Film Fellow and a Paterno Liberal Arts Fellow. She received numerous creative research grants and PSU playwriting and theatre awards. Her work has appeared in Kalliope Lit Mag, PSU, Schlow Library, Chaotic Utopian Lit Mag, and elsewhere.