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Casting Call

Can you imagine the Indiana Jones movies without Harrison Ford, or Bridget Jones’s Diary without Renee Zellweger?

Remy Patrizio ’11 could envision, right down to hair color, the female lead for her Woodrow Wilson-funded play. The problem was, she couldn’t find her … and time was running out.

With funding from her fellowship, the Writing Seminars major wrote, and would eventually produce and direct, a play titled Fever Teeth, a mystical coming-of-age story.

The plot centers on Jane, a mid-20s woman, out of work and living with her brother. The brother helps Jane get a job at a dentist’s office run by one eccentric doctor. Jane is tasked with closing the office each night with the explicit orders not to open the contents of the office safe. Jane, of course, can’t resist and inside she finds a jar of extracted teeth with magical properties. Each tooth she handles conjures up the ghost of its owner and she ultimately falls in love with one of these phantoms.

“It’s a story about dreams and what happens when you open up your imagination,” says Patrizio.

She wrote the majority of the script the spring of her junior year. “Any second I wasn’t studying or doing work for class, I was writing,” she says. “I would use index cards to spell out what I wanted to happen in each scene. By the end of the semester I had a ton of index cards scattered on my floor. I was completely consumed.”

During spring break, Patrizio held the first of two casting calls for the 10-person cast. “At the time, I was thinking, ‘What am I doing trying to cast 10 actors?'” she says. “But it was sink or swim—and no way was I going to fail.”

She filled most of the roles, but still no Jane.

With the assistance and support of Joe Martin, a senior lecturer in theater arts at Johns Hopkins, Patrizio ended up with a 50-page script and then began the process of searching for a theater space. She was referred to Links Hall in her hometown of Chicago and booked the space for a four-night run in August 2010.

Before she went home to Chicago, she held another round of auditions to complete her cast. She saw many actors, but none fit the bill. Where was her Jane? Then in May, just three months before the show dates, Jessie Spear showed up–with red hair and endless enthusiasm.

“She was the perfect embodiment of the person I had seen portraying this character and we totally hit it off,” Patrizio says.

The varied bunch of professionals, students, and friends began rehearsing and before Patrizio knew it, Fever Teeth weekend was upon her.

How’d it go? Better than she imagined. All four nights were sold out. “It all came together. I couldn’t have been happier,” says Patrizio, who plans to continue playwriting and to submit her scripts to festivals in Chicago and beyond.

Explore Further:

The Woodrow Wilson Undergraduate Research Fellowship Program awards grants of up to $10,000 to incoming freshmen and up to $7,500 to rising sophomores for original, independent research projects in the humanities, natural sciences, and social sciences. Students use the grant throughout their undergraduate careers to pay for equipment, travel, or other research expenses. Here’s what some of the fellows have been doing.