When Ellis Stump was preparing for life after graduation in May, her play, “The Only Coffee Shop in the City,” was enduring some changes as well.
After undergoing the first stages of workshopping, stage reading and production while Stump was a student at Penn State, the full-length piece will debut Oct. 1 as part of the NY Theatre Festival, Summerfest 2019 in New York City.
“The play evolved and developed in preparation to embark into the real world, into New York City, right in time with me,” Stump said. “That’s been a very personal experience.”
A Schreyer Honors Scholar and inaugural Donald P. Bellisario Fellow, Stump graduated from the Donald P. Bellisario College of Communications and the College of the Liberal Arts. She completed a double major in media studies and English, and added minors in psychology, gender studies, and theater. Stump sees the play as a culmination of her academic endeavors at Penn State.
The idea for “The Only Coffee Shop in the City” first came to Stump upon returning from a semester abroad and discovering a common theme between her experiences and those of her friends. A pressure to present their best selves on social media, while masking real life problems from others, had created a feeling of disconnect despite their constant connection online. Combining the struggle to present one’s real self to the world and her academic interests, Stump brought the play to life in her last year and a half at Penn State.
Stump said she had fun writing and experimenting with the piece as more of a TV script than a theater script. Her use of multiple protagonists, background music and spatial awareness have created what she calls “binge-worthy theater.”
“Quick snippets, fast-paced, switching back and forth between plots and characters, like you would see in something on Netflix,” Stump explained. “I really like the idea of making theater more accessible, interesting and engaging for a younger audience.”