The lights dimmed and the curtain rose as former Shawnee resident Chris Cragin-Day's latest play “The Rare Biosphere” came to life as it premiered at Calvary St. George's in New York City on April 25.
According to Cragin-Day, “The Rare Biosphere” tells the tale of Honduran-American Sophie and the struggles her family faces as immigrants.
"It's a two actor play and it's about two teenagers. The main character (Sophie) she comes home from school one day to discover that her parents have been deported," Cragin-Day said. "The other character (Steven) accidentally figures out what's going...and he tries to help her out."
Cragin-Day went to Shawnee High School and attended Oklahoma Baptist University and said she was inspired to write “The Rare Biosphere” after reading the essay of one of her writing students at the King's College in New York City.
"It was an essay about immigrant experiences in America and she herself is a Honduran American...and I was just really interested," Cragin-Day said.
The playwright explained Sophie is fascinated with the “Rare Biosphere,” which is a term that refers to rare, previously overlooked, microbial species that play a crucial role in regulating Earth’s ecosystems.
Running until May 19, Cragin-Day said people have responded positively to her play but she hopes they are understanding and enjoying the purpose of the story.
"The play is obviously about a very serious subject but it's also a lot of fun and it's not just about the politics surrounding the issue — it's about the human experiences inside the issue," Cragin-Day said. "So I guess my hope is that number one people will...laugh because there's lots of funny moments and just see the humanity in these character and also hopefully see a little bit of themselves in that humanity as well."
After getting her undergrad degree at OBU, Cragin-Day said she and her husband attended Baylor University. After meeting a theater producer, they were offered internships and then jobs in New York City, where she's pursued her careers in theater for the last 15 years.
"I started out in the theater as an actor and when I went to grad school at Baylor I had studied directing and by then I had already been writing a little bit and I was taken under the wing of a couple of artistic directors...," Cragin-Day said.
The playwright explained her mentors read one of her plays, recognized her talent and encouraged her to write more.
"When I moved to New York City I got into a program at the Public Theater called the Emerging Writers Group...and so when I got into that writers group it sealed my fate," Cragin-Day said.
For Cragin-Day, the best aspect of writing is creating something for the theater world to bring to life.
"I love the rehearsal room. I love working with actors. I love the whole theater art form," Cragin-Day said. "It's very communal. It's very collaborative...It's just a really generous beautiful act..."
The play is directed by Christopher Domig. It stars Natalia Plaza and Zac Owens and features lighting by Guy De Lancey, costume design by Emily White, sound by Tye Hunt Fitzgerald and stage management by Harrison Corthell.
"It's always fun to see a play you've written realized for the first time on stage and these actors and the company I'm working with at Sea Dog Theater are doing a really good job of taking this script and bringing it to the stage...," she said.
Cragin-Day has written various plays including “Martin Luther on Trial,”,and “A Woman,” as well as “Foster Mom” and even a musical called “The Unusual Tale of Mary and Joseph's Baby.”
She said she's working on some new plays including one about the Oklahoma City Bombing and a musical about the ratification of the 19th Amendment.
Tickets “'The Rare Biosphere” in New York City are $30 for everyone and $20 for students and they're available online at seadogtheater.org.