Sewanee is full of extraordinary people with fascinating stories. Here they share those stories–in their own words.

Cameron Noel, C’21

Theatre major, dance minor, second-year MFA student in playwriting at Southern Illinois University and winner of the Christian H. Moe Playwriting Award for Best Short Play

When it comes to playwriting, my mind is like a locomotive going off the tracks. I’m constantly coming up with new ideas or writing down lines in the Notes app on my phone. I’ll be at the grocery store picking up a package of ground beef and suddenly be like, “I know how to end this scene!” One lesson from Professor Elyzabeth Wilder’s advanced playwriting class at Sewanee has always stayed with me—when you’re writing a play or you’re coming up with a concept for a play, you have to ask, “Why tell this story now?” It makes sure your play has a point of view. 

Hearing actors read one of my plays is both nerve-wracking and my favorite part. If there’s a typo anywhere in there, they’ll find it. But the really scary part is that you never know if what is in your mind is translating to the page. I’ve never thought of myself as a comedic writer, so it’s surprising and rewarding whenever I write a joke on the page, an actor reads it, and the people in the room actually laugh. I also love it when I have a talkback after a performance or workshop and someone says, “I noticed you did this deeply symbolic thing or made this historical reference.” And I’ll just sit back and say, “I had no idea. That was not on purpose, but yes, absolutely. You saw something in it, so I’m going to claim it. Thank you so much.”

As artists, we always bring a part of ourselves to the work. I am interested in telling authentic Black and queer stories—I'm a gay Black man, so those stories are very important to me. I would often look at so many plays and movies and find myself complaining, “Where are the characters who look like me?” And I thought, “Well, if you don’t like what you’re seeing, then go write what you do want to see.” People of color and members of marginalized communities are so multifaceted, and there’s so much room for creativity and so many untapped narrative possibilities. I want to take what I’ve learned and write those stories for my community.

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