NT alum’s “The K of D” performed by frosh/soph

Playwright, graduate Laura Schellhardt returns to alma mater

The+cast+of+the+play%2C+featuring+a+girl+who+believes+she+has+a+lethal+superpower%2C+poses+for+a+photo
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NT alum’s “The K of D” performed by frosh/soph

The cast of the play, featuring a girl who believes she has a lethal superpower, poses for a photo

The cast of the play, featuring a girl who believes she has a lethal superpower, poses for a photo

Stuart Rodgers

The cast of the play, featuring a girl who believes she has a lethal superpower, poses for a photo

Stuart Rodgers

Stuart Rodgers

The cast of the play, featuring a girl who believes she has a lethal superpower, poses for a photo

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New Trier alum Laura Schellhardt’s play, “The K of D”, was first produced in 2008 and has been performed at many high schools in the Chicagoland area in the years following.
After being performed for over a decade at neighboring high schools, “The K of D” was finally produced at Schellhardt’s alma mater.

“Other directors in the area have talked about how much they liked [‘The K of D’],” said director Nina Lynn, “I knew that [Laura] had written it, but I had never read it, and, the moment I read it, I was sold [on producing it].”

Although Schellhardt was introduced to fine arts at New Trier, her career ambitions did not shift towards playwriting until her time at Northwestern University, where she now works as a senior lecturer. During her time as a Northwestern student, Schellhardt had the opportunity to study under award-winning writer John Logan, an influence who ultimately led to her decision to pursue a career as a playwright.

“[I took Logan’s class] for three years in a row. I became his assistant as a senior because he was starting to move out to Hollywood, and, by that time, I knew that [playwriting] was what I wanted to do with my life,” said Schellhardt.

After receiving her bachelor’s degree at Northwestern, Schellhardt continued her playwriting education at Brown University, with Pulitzer Prize-winning writer Paula Vogel, where she received her master’s degree in playwriting.

Schellhardt subsequently began working on her first professional play: a one-woman show about a 12 year-old girl who was believed to have obtained a lethal superpower from the tragic death of her brother.

That one-woman show became “The K of D.” Schellhardt spent three years developing The K of D before it premiered in 2008, marking the beginning of her professional playwriting career.
“‘K of D’ definitely has a special place in my heart since it was my first professional piece,” said Schellhardt. “I had written short plays that had professional intention and I had written a lot of plays in grad school, but this was the first play that I put out into the world.”

Although Schellhardt was not officially involved with New Trier’s production of the play, she paid a visit to the performing students two weeks prior to its premiere, providing the students a unique opportunity to meet the creator of the work that they were performing.

“When I knew that we were doing [‘The K of D’], I contacted Laura and asked her to come and speak to our students,” said Lynn. “Laura came and spent about an hour talking to the cast about what inspired her to write the play and also what she likes to see when we do the play.”

Since many of the characters were based on people that Schellhardt knew, her meeting with the cast allowed each actor the opportunity to address individual questions about how to portray their specific character.

“None of the characters are carbon copies of anybody. They are all variations on people that I know, and a lot of it is fictionalized,” said Schellhardt. “Certainly the characters are fictionalized, but [their traits] are pulled from people I know.”

Although Schellhardt was able to easily discern fact from embellishment in her characters in “The K of D”, the characters that she created struggle with that very skill. The play focuses on how the community surrounding Charlotte McGraw, the main character of the play, confuses the facts surrounding the death of her brother with the myth of her obtaining a ‘Kiss of Death.’

“At the time [I wrote the play], I was very interested in what it means to survive trauma at a young age. The idea of a young girl grappling with a traumatic experience, seemed to make sense as an urban legend.”

In addition to speaking to the students participating in the play, Schellhardt also saw a performance of the play, which ran from Mar. 13 to Mar. 16. In viewing the play, Schellhardt bore witness to the new fine arts facilities at Winnetka, for which she praised the school in upgrading.

“New Trier is a very different building than the building that I experienced, so it was really nice to see the new space,” said Schellhardt. “It’s encouraging to see a school where the arts seem to be taken as seriously as sports, and I think that the [new wing] is a testament to that.”

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