November 17, 2015

Award-winning playwright Donna Hoke places 'Safe' bet on SVSU theatre production

Award-winning playwright and journalist Donna Hoke is conquering the theatre world one step at a time, and the Buffalo-based talent has great expectations for her future.

Her present is at Saginaw Valley State University, where the theatre department will produce her latest play “Safe” with the collaboration of Road Less Traveled Productions, a Buffalo theatre company where Hoke works as part of an ensemble playwright group.

Showtimes for SVSU's production of “Safe” are 7:30 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday, Nov. 18-21. A matinee is planned for 3 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 22. All shows will be held in SVSU's Malcolm Field Theatre for Performing Arts. Tickets cost $13 for the general public and $10 for senior citizens and students.

The play is part of a collaboration with Road Less Traveled Productions, a professional theater company based in Buffalo, New York. In 2014, the company agreed to work with SVSU’s theatre department, which will put the play on stage for the first time. Road Less Traveled plans to follow with its own production of “Safe” in March.

Recently, Hoke shared her history with an SVSU audience when she participated in a question and answer forum on campus.

Since she was a child, Hoke loved writing, she explained. During her college years, she largely wrote fiction and poetry. When she graduated, at the age of 25, she gravitated towards journalism since, as an introvert, she felt vulnerable about sharing her feelings with those who read her work.

After a few years working at a magazine, Hoke decided to attend some of Buffalo's playwright workshops, until finally she started writing plays again for fun. She landed her first production in 2010.

“You just need to write and get your work out there,” she said. “That's it.”

Since pursuing that dream, Hoke has earned praise for her work. For three consecutive years, she was named Best Writer by Artvoice, a news magazine based in Buffalo. A number of her plays also have earned various awards.

“Safe” was largely influenced by a teen suicide believed by some to be encouraged by bullying in her school district. The play exhibits the pain and strength that reside in the hearts and minds of those who experience bullying.

While the SVSU production is the first time it will be put on stage, "Safe" already has won the 2014 Todd McNerney National Playwriting Contest, 2014 Naatak National Playwriting Contest, and the 2015 Great Gay Play and Musical Contest. The play was a finalist for the T. Schreiber New Works Competition, and also a semi-finalist at both nuVoices at Actors Theatre of Charlotte and the 37th Bay Area Playwrights Festival.

As for the future, Hoke is considering Broadway. She hopes to have an agent in the next five years to help her spread her work throughout the country.

“I am happy with what I accomplished,” she said. “I would love to be at the point where I can get a number of productions every year, just to be out there.”

As a last piece of advice for future playwrights that struggle with feedbacks, she quoted Stephen Schwartz, an American musical theatre lyricist and composer: “There is always an answer that will satisfy both people and you just need to work to find it. You just need to go to the room with collaborative spirit, respect for the text and the director.”

For more information about her play, "Safe," visit www.svsu.edu/theatre.
For more information on Donna Hoke visit www.donnahoke.com.