by Manuel Lagos
Ara Vito graduated from Belmont University in May 2016 with a double major in Theatre and English. For her Theatre senior capstone project she wrote a stage adaptation of “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland” entitled “Alice.” This play was not only a success at Belmont but it went on to receive multiple awards from the Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival (KCACTF). Before “Alice,” Vito had no idea she wanted to be a playwright, yet it would seem that she found a home in playwriting by merging her two personal interests—theatre and literature.
Both “Alice” and Vito’s second play “Antigone,” stemmed from interests she picked up in the classroom. She says, “[the plays] were inspired by specific literature and literary genres—such as the Southern Gothic genre—that I developed an even greater passion for while studying them in my English classes at Belmont.” Not only did Vito’s studies provide her with knowledge of genre, she also claims to have picked up the tools of her craft along the way, saying, “English majors are constantly encouraged to think beyond the surface of any piece of writing and to focus not only on what the authors says but how he or she tells the story. Learning how to analyze structure, theme, tone, imagery, historical context, author’s intent, etc. has helped me immensely.” Her ability to identify each element at work in the source material, allowed her to leverage those aspects of writing in her adaptations.
Always finding Vito’s work at the intersection of her personal interests, anyone who has seen her plays knows that her adaptations take on new life from the source material. Vito says, “my adaptations have come down to honing in on what these stories mean to me and what they say about the human condition, and working with those central ideas while still being creative.” Through this lens, “Alice” was performed with an all female cast and act breaks were hidden through creative transitions. “Antigone,” a Greek tragedy, becomes a Southern-Gothic tale. Vito’s plays take on fresh and relevant meaning because she makes the source material meaningful for herself.
By creating works that resonate with her personally, Vito’s plays hit home for her audience too. KCACTF’s recognition of “Alice” landed Vito a summer spent studying at the Kennedy Center, which she classified as “a dream.” Vito’s success with “Alice” has even taken her into the business world, saying, “‘Alice’ is being produced by other theatre companies and I’m learning the ins and outs of contracts and author’s rights.” Vito isn’t kidding when she says that her plays have opened doors for her.
Approaching a year since graduation, Vito has a world of options available. “I will definitely keep pursuing playwriting… I’m considering looking into publishing as well. I will be thinking about grad school later on down the road and continuing to write new material.” Yet the possibilities of these options are not daunting to Vito, to her they seem welcome. By finding a new interest in writing through her adapted plays, she seems to possess a sense of solidarity. Summing it up, she says “I might not know exactly what I’ll be doing a year from now, but I do know that I’ll always love writing, and I really am so appreciative of all the ways the Belmont English Department has encouraged me in that.”
Photos of “Alice” and “Antigone” by Rick Malkin Photography.
Manuel Lagos is a Senior majoring in Motion Pictures and minoring in Writing.