KU Professor Writes Play; World Premiere Sept. 21 in Philadelphia
KUTZTOWN, Pa. – Covid Queertet is a new play from Kutztown University professor playwright, Dr. Deryl Johnson. The play explores the question of “Who controls your identity after your death?” The World Premier is set to debut at 7 p.m., Thursday, Sept. 21, Plays and Players Theatre, 1714 Delancey Place, Philadelphia.
Set during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, the evening takes an ominous turn when four actors begin to examine the artistic works, identities and legacies of Oscar Wilde, Willa Cather, José Sarria and Kutztown, Pa. native Keith Haring. This DEI-themed play explores the contemporary LGBTQ+ issues of identity, suicide and practice of “outing” people. The show features works by Cather, who won the 1923 Pulitzer Prize for Literature and would have been 150 years old this year, Haring and Sarria, who once spoke at KU.
This special, one-night-only event features a pre-show concert by the Philadelphia Gay Men’s Chorus. Admission is free, but tickets are strongly recommended and available from the Philadelphia Fringe Festival Box Office at 215-413-1318 or online.
Johnson received a grant from the PASSHE Faculty Professional Development Council to support the play to be streamed live to all 10 State System campuses at no charge. Additionally, each campus audience will be able to participate in a virtual talk back with the cast, director and playwright immediately following the performance.
In addition to the hundreds of potential students, faculty and staff that will be able to view the production, students from KU’s Live Production class in the Department of Cinema, Television and Media Production will stream the performance. This grant will allow student to broadcast from an actual and historical theatre.
A playwright, performer, professor and storyteller, Johnson began teaching at Kutztown University in 1993. In addition to his creative pursuits, he served as the founding director of Kutztown’s LGBTQ+ Resource Center and twice as president of the University Senate. Johnson is the playwright of Peter Taylor’s Old Forest, Short Changed: Depicting Women in Literature, Persona and Just Wilde about Haring. He is the author/playwright of “Centralia,” his book and play of the same name follows the saga of the Pennsylvania mining town consumed by an underground fire and the people who stayed. He is also the adapter/director of four plays for NPR Radio based on the short stories of Pennsylvania native John O’Hara.
Johnson is a member of the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education’s DEI Advisory Board (Diversity, Equity and Inclusion) and the IDEA Council (Inclusion, Diversity, Equity, and Access) of the National Communication Association. He is the former chairperson of KU’s Department of Communication Studies, where he teaches Storytelling, Spoken Word Poetry, Acting and Introduction to Theatre.
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