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New Student-Written Play ‘Lonely Together’ Blends Psychology With Theatre

Current Penn State senior Melody Munitz’s original play, “Lonely Together,” is set to debut on December 10 in the Downtown Theatre.

“Lonely Together” follows two young women, Sophie (portrayed by Megan Irwin) and Layla (portrayed by Maddy King), as their plane gets diverted due to a blizzard, stranding them in a rural motel. The two transform from strangers into confidants as they enter dialogues surrounding intimacy, secrets, dreams, and personal growth.

As a novel interdisciplinary project, Munitz’s show will offer credit towards both her musical theatre and psychology degrees. The project has had influence and input from members of Penn State’s Department of Psychology, School of Theatre, College of Liberal Arts, College of Arts and Architecture, and Schreyer Honors College.

“There’s this burgeoning interdisciplinary field of cognitive science and theatre arts that is everything I want to be a part of,” Munitz said. “I’m very curious about the millions of factors in understanding, psychologically, what we can learn to maximize the impact and accessibility of theatre.”

Not satisfied with the current state of the arts’ psychological study, Munitz indicated a desire to do her part in expanding the practice.

“One thing that we don’t have is any wealth of quantitative research about theatre,” Munitz said. “We get some about music, musical therapy, visual arts, but we don’t get a ton about theatre at all.”

Munitz’s production is a real-world attempt to begin gathering that quantitative research, in an attempt to, in her words, “apply science to theatre, have a representative experience in the theatre, and then bring some behavioral data to support it and understand what’s beneath it.”

Munitz is asking that attendees of the production fill out a survey following the conclusion of the performance, with a research participation consent form being attached to the ticket reservations. Munitz hopes that receiving the anonymous feedback will offer an aggregate sample of the general theatre experience.

“I can’t say too much about it,” Munitz said with a smile. “Basically, it’s to understand, from a behavioral perspective, what factors mediate the experience someone has when they see a piece of theatre.”

Having multiple theatrical and scientific experiences of her own, both professionally and with Penn State, Munitz has always felt driven to pursue her greatest passions.

“Growing up, people always said to ‘pick one thing,’ and I’ve really resented that,” Munitz said. “I’m doing both here at the same time. It’s a dream come true in every way.”

Simultaneously serving as the playwright, director, and primary scientific researcher for the production, it’s safe to say Munitz’s assessment of the situation is accurate.

“Lonely Together” is certainly a marriage of the arts and the sciences, though Munitz did note that during the planning of the production there was some level of compartmentalization which needed to occur. Four years in the making, there were times of revision that required her exclusive focus on one aspect of the project. Over the last five weeks, that focus has mostly been on the dramatic piece itself.

A love letter to independent films’ style of storytelling, “Lonely Together” is loosely inspired by a wild road trip experience of Munitz and two of her friends in their freshman year.

“We were trying to get home and the windshield wipers kept getting stuck to the window. We ended up pulling off in what felt like the middle of nowhere,” Munitz said.

A hundred feet, a Days Inn stay, and a parking lot train car restaurant later, Munitz was sharing some of the most tender conversations that she had ever experienced.

“The three of us were friends, but we became really close that night. We opened up to each other about everything, because we could,” Munitz said. “We were in this liminal space that wasn’t real life and yet sort of was. We just talked all night and unleashed our vulnerability.”

And thus, the writing commenced. Now, in her senior year, Munitz hopes her work provokes thought, of any kind, in her audience.

“The most I could ask for is that someone felt something or thought something,” Munitz said. “Truly that’s the goal. Ultimately, I want it to do what theatre does best which is: reflect the human experience and give people a chance to sit back and ponder and emote with the characters.”

“Lonely Together” will run on December 10 and 11 at 7:30 p.m., with a matinee performance on December 12 at noon. Each show will run for about 40 minutes. Admission is free, though tickets do need to be reserved ahead of time by filling out the production’s reservation form.

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About the Author

Sam Fremin

Sam is a senior from Ashburn, Virginia, majoring in journalism and political science & minoring in German and creative writing. He is a Dallas Cowboys fan who relishes the misery of Eagles fans. All hate messages can be sent to [email protected] or @SamFremin on Twitter.

He may or may not read every single comment he gets.

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