Alumna’s play hits stage in Des Moines

by Blair BoydStaff Writer

It’s no doubt plenty of talented people have graduated from Simpson and have gone on to do great things in their lives. Some people do things that involve their major and others stray off the beaten path.

Erica Spiller, who double majored in theater and English, has used her strengths to do impressive things with her degree. Spiller graduated in Dec. 2006 and has already gone on to make her dream of becoming a playwright come true.

Spiller has written her own play entitled, “A Light That Burns” which has hit the stage in Des Moines and will continue through March 3. Her development of this play started while she was still a student at Simpson.

“The play originated as her senior project in English 360, a requirement for the major,” David Wolf, assistant professor of English said. “Students may complete a critical or creative work. Erica wanted to write a play and ‘A Light That Burns’ was the result.”

“A Light That Burns” is about a middle-aged man who is diagnosed with a terminal illness. The man becomes delusional, and, as a result, is lead toward death by different literary and historical characters – Jack the Ripper being one of them.

“I was in bed one night and thought wouldn’t it be interesting if a few corpses were taunting a living being about the secrets associated with being dead,” Spiller said. “From there I became extremely excited about the concept and started to decide who the corpses would be.”

Thus far the shows have been going very well with two more performances to go. The Tallgrass Theater Co. chose Spiller’s play as their first in the Iowa Playwrights Workshop, which is something they hope to become an annual event.

“The shows are going phenomenally,” Spiller said. “After the show, the audience was buzzing with excitement about it. I am extremely pleased with the final project as well as the hard work and commitment everyone has put into it.”

Many feel that Spiller has written a strong play.

“Erica is an extremely talented writer,” senior Lindsey Johnson said. “This play is a prime example of how brilliant she is with words.”

Wolf, who saw the whole process come together, shares the same ideas.

“Her work evinces an engaging critical edge,” Wolf said. “Having read some of her award-winning fiction and some other dramatic work, I find her work thematically rich, complex and vital.”

As of right now, Spiller’s show has been running strong, and it seems inevitable that it will continue to do so until its run on the stage ends.

“About five minutes before we opened, I was convinced I had written the worst thing ever and that people would hate it,” Spiller said. “However, people really enjoyed it and absorbed the material.”

Johnson knew from the beginning it was going to be a wonderful play.

“Erica has the ability to take the simplest phrase and turn it into an amazingly beautiful statement,” Johnson said. “I have all the faith that she will do great things with the talent she has.”