New Play to Premiere at OSU—Written by OSU Student and Prism Volunteer, Leah Kahn


Leah Kahn

The Ellis Island cast during dress rehearsal to prepare for opening night. From left to right: Maia Barnebey as Mandolina, Savannah Taaggard as Fecha, Kyle Stockdall as Officer, and Vreneli Farber as Domenica. Not pictured here is Jax Kalberer as Nathan.

Natalie Harris, Editor-in-Chief

On February 10th, Leah Kahn will see the play she’s been working on for the last year come to life for a live audience. 

Last winter term in 2021, Leah and I took the same playwriting class, taught by Elizabeth Helman. This class is where the first couple of drafts of Ellis Island were born, but the play was a lot shorter back then–with the goal of the final being no more than 15 pages.

Now it’s around a 45 page play that has been brought off the page and into existence with OSU student, Hannah Schwartz, as director and a five person cast of OSU students and community members.

When we read aloud the drafts back in February of 2021, all in our little zoom rooms, I remember loving the way Leah managed to write and stage this story of two women, who didn’t speak the same language, as they arrived at Ellis Island. It was heartbreaking yet heartwarming, swelling with hope.

Leah learned her play would become OSU’s lab theatre production for Winter of 2022 in August of 2021. From August to December she worked on additional drafts, diving deeper into the circumstances of the characters and their relationships in order to make these people on the page feel like someone you’d actually know. She worked on these drafts while also studying abroad in Spain!

Leah Kahn in Granada, Spain during her study abroad trip during fall term 2021.

When I asked Leah about her revision process, we expressed similar feelings towards our writing and how difficult it becomes to feel like a project is ever really complete.

She enjoyed the exercise of working through a plot, since a majority of her writing is in the form of poetry. And it’s rewarding for her to have something finished—even if she does think of further changes she could make. Then she added, “I’m reminding myself that only I’ll be able to see further editing.”

I asked Leah for some more tips on the revision process to share with our Prism community. On top of being a new playwright and a 4th year student in management with a theatre arts minor, Leah is also a volunteer for Prism. For the last couple of weeks we were lucky to have her on our review committee to go through our submissions and offer feedback. If you’re a writer or creative, here are some tips from Leah to you about revising!

  1. Revisions need time. Give yourself a break and then come back to your work
  2. It’s okay if you’re a perfectionist, but eventually you will have to move on to other things
  3. Don’t be afraid to write in your own voice and to write for yourself

For Leah, “This play is what I want to see in the world.”

Oregon State University Theatre opens Ellis Island this weekend starting on Thursday, February 10th. Opening night is sold out, but you have until February 13th to head over to Withycombe Hall in the lab theatre to see the show!

Friday, February 11th and Saturday February 12th have show times at 7:30 pm. Sunday’s performance, on February 13th, is at 2 pm. Tickets are free for everyone and can be reserved here.

I highly recommend you reserve your tickets now before the rest of the show times get sold out! 


Please note that those attending will need to show their vaccination card and ID. If you’re an OSU student, you only need your student ID. Masks must be worn and are required for university events. For more event policy information, go here.

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