Mary Omilian ’17 Honored with Playwriting Award

Junior Mary Omilian was selected to be honored at the Theater Project’s 14th Annual Young Playwrights competition on March 12 at the Cranford Community Center in Cranford, NJ for her one-act play. The plot focuses on a relationship between two men in 1950’s San Francisco that is complicated by the pressure to conform to societal norms and discriminatory police practices. Mary wrote the play in English Teacher Emily Salazar’s playwriting course as a prequel to a musical she plans on producing for her senior capstone project. The musical will explore similar themes as the one-act play, but follow the story about the rise and effect of the Daughters of Bilitis, the first lesbian civil and political rights organization in the United States.

“With LGBTQ rights, there’s still a lack of visibility in the media, plays, and musicals,” said Mary. “When most people think of a stereotypical LGBTQ show, they will think of Rent, but it is centered around gay men. There are none about lesbians. So I was researching the history of LGBTQ rights, and I read about the Daughters of Bilitis, a group which I have never heard about before, who were so revolutionary. I read more about the leading figures of the lesbian rights group, Del Martin and Phyllis Lyon, who just wanted a place to dance, and I wanted to explore their story, the Daughter of Bilitis, and the context of their experience during the 1950’s.”

With such a strong passion for LGBTQ rights, Mary knew she wanted to combine that interest with her love of the theatre for advanced study in both her play and future capstone project.

“I love the stage and performing,” said Mary. “When you are acting, you get to become this whole different person, and, on the other side of the stage, you have a deeper connection with the actors and the story compared to movies or TV. So it was great to take Ms. Salazar’s playwriting class in the fall to learn about the specifics about how to write a play and stage directions like lighting, blocking, and props. I also learned how to write my story in a historically accurate way.”

Additionally, Mary credits Ms. Salazar for helping her strengthen the dialogue between characters in the 28-page play. She encouraged Mary to trust her audience to understand the subtext of scenes, and Ms. Salazar reminded her to be cognizant of mismatched 21st century language in the 1950’s setting.

When considering her inspirations in the theatre, Mary quoted Othello and Cabaret as her favorite play and musical respectively, but also praised her older brother.  

“My brother Michael Omilian ’12 did all the musicals at MFS, and I loved watching him,” said Mary. “When I was 10 years old, he performed in Cabaret at MFS. I remember the show being so incredible. My brother was awesome on stage and that made me want to perform in MFS plays and musicals too.”

Away from the stage, Mary is a member of the Agenda Committee, Vice President of the Choir and Treble Choir, Vice President of the Stress Relief Club, and a leader of the PRIDE club. In the future, Mary aspires to be involved with the theatre somehow, either directing, acting, producing, or playwriting.