Senior Shiloh Carozza had never written a two act play before. She had written novels and stories, but “Between the Lines” was her first full play. After months of working and writing, Carozza’s new play, which explores the theme of censorship of the press set against the historical backdrop of the English Civil Wars in the mid-1600s, was showcased in a staged reading on March 22.
In 1643, England was split between Parliament and the monarchy, divided between Royalists (Cavaliers) and Parliamentarians (Roundheads). It was in this era that Carozza created the story of Inspector Nicholas Hackle (Dylan Strehle) and Louisa Greaves (Sarah Nolting). Louisa is a Cavalier and Hackle is an avid Roundhead who used to be a Cavalier. Using her knowledge of his secret and evidence that could jeopardize Hackle’s life and position as a Roundhead Inspector for the Parliament, Louisa blackmails him into marrying her. She promises that if he keeps her safe, she will keep his secret safe.
This marriage is a strange sham, but both have the protection they need from each other, and pursue their separate goals. Hackle fights against the Royalist uprisings and tries to sniff out his nemesis, the infamous “Constantine,” a writer whose inflammatory pamphlets lead Royalists to protest in the streets.
The play builds to its climax after Hackle arrests printer Samuel Hemsworth, who had been printing some of the pamphlets for the mysterious Constantine. Going behind her husband’s back, Louisa takes a particular interest in the poor printer and saves him. Both Louisa and Hemsworth are Cavaliers, and a romance blossoms. Though she is still in her sham marriage to Hackle, she becomes pregnant with Hemsworth’s child.
But before Hackle learns about the pregnancy, Hemsworth and Louisa are caught in the midst of a riot, in which Hemsworth is killed and Louisa is hurt and loses the child.
Hackle, further confused about the strange woman that he was blackmailed into marrying when he finds out about the illegitimate child, is called away to suppress more uprisings but suffers a gout attack while he is away. With the Cavaliers all but knocking down his door, Hackle’s doctor and Louisa save him. Hackle survives, but the doctor — and presumably Louisa — do not survive the angry mobs.
As Hackle ponders Louisa and Constantine and finds a correlation. When she was ill, Constantine had stopped writing. Her handwriting is the same as Constantine’s. He suddenly realizes that Louisa was the fiery Constantine, the author of the inflammatory pamphlets, using his protection to try to preserve freedom of speech through her words.
Without naming her, he explains to his superiors that the troublesome Constantine is finally dead. But Louisa re-enters in the last scene. She is not dead, but parts from Hackle and frees him by telling him where to find the evidence she had against him.
It is this type of unresolved ending that Carozza said she is drawn to.
“When I write, I usually like to write about things that haunt me and don’t leave me with a sense of closure,” Carozza said.
The idea of having a story about two people in a relationship that neither of them wanted to be in, but each had to be in for his own respective reasons, was an idea that had been bouncing around Carozza’s head since her senior year of high school. She liked the way the idea haunted her and she knew that was the type of story she could really care about.
Carozza wrote the play for George Angell’s, Professor Emeritus of Theatre and Dance, Playwriting class which requires students to write a full length play, 1.5 – 2 hours, or around 105 – 125 pages.
“George told us, ‘Whatever you write about it’s going to be a two act show, so it has to be something you care about,’” Carozza said.
She realized she wanted to write the story that had been with her for several years.
“Shiloh put untold hours of work in the project. She and Judy and I met twice per week for 2-hour sessions, discussing, troubleshooting and devil’s-advocating the work as it was created and rewritten many times over,” Angell said.
Carozza’s passion for writing and the story she created was evident in the fact that she was not technically required to have a staged reading since she is a rhetoric and public address major and not a theatre major. She went beyond the assignment requirements for the playwriting class and worked hard, but enjoyed it.
“This is probably the most fulfilling project I have ever gotten to do my entire life,” Carozza said after the reading was finished.
But even with the reading done, she still plans to keep working on her script after she graduates.
“Long term, I want to go into screenwriting and or playwriting,” Carozza said.
She said she would like to keep revising the script with the audience feedback, and perhaps eventually have a private stage production of it.