Penning for the PlayPenn


In 1959, psychiatrist Milton Rokeach treated three patients who thought they were Jesus Christ. In 2012, Seth Rozin, of Ninth and Kimball streets, has written a play inspired by Rokeach’s study.

“Basically [Rokeach] meets with each guy and then has the idea to bring them together, since, in the presence of each other, they’ll have no choice but to undo each other’s delusions,” Rozin said of his work-in-progress entitled “JC3.” “It’s a play of ideas inspired by this time in our lives where there is discussion of the disparity in the distribution of wealth and also … the polarization of society, with everyone claiming to have a solution: ‘Here’s what Jesus would say.’

“Personally, I get sick of being told by every faction — and since it’s obviously open to interpretation, they can’t all be right. It’s a comedy of ideas.”

The play, which Rozin began writing a year ago, will be the opening reading 8 p.m. July 17 for the PlayPenn conference, which features nine readings and runs until July 22 at the Adrienne Theater.

“Mine is a little different, It will only have had four hours of rehearsal, so less development than the other works and it’s more about showcasing a local writer,” Rozin, who also has been the casting director for the PlayPenn event for the past five years, said. “The others will have had two weeks of development.”

The completely free events will feature actors reading aloud the still-developing pieces. The staging varies depending on the choices of the playwright and the director, and can range from actors behind music stands to movement around the stage to represent different settings.

“People will be surprised how much a reading stimulates the imagination and is fun, even more so than a finished work. With a production, you are evaluating the final piece and if it isn’t fully satisfying — where with a reading, a lot is left to your imagination,” Rozin said. “It allows the audience to fill in the locales, how it looks, with the staging as described. It may work better in a reading.”

Rozin included a work in the event three years ago, entitled “Two Jews Walk Into a War,” which went on to have 10 different productions nationally. Rozin hopes for similar success for “JC3.”

“This will be the first time I hear it in front of an audience, which is valuable in so many ways,” Rozin said. “The single most important way [it is valuable] is that it’s a comedy, as was the last one, so I can gauge if it’s really working.”

“I started performing in elementary school and I loved it. I think by the time I got to high school, I already expected to do something in the theater,” Rozin said. “I was a visual artist at the time [of college] and by the time I graduated, I knew I wanted to have a company of my own at some point.”

As an oil painter and pen-and-ink drawer, Rozin moved from the Main Line to attend the University of Pennsylvania to study history and theory of art.

“Extracurricularly I was involved, primarily with Penn Players … mostly as an actor and director and producer,” Rozin, who graduated in 1998, said. “I didn’t write that much and I didn’t expect to be a writer. I had ideas and I spent a lot of my time working with other playwrights to help them write theirs.

“When I started, I found that I have an ability and my plays were competitive, so I kept writing.”

Two years after graduation Rozin began InterAct Theatre Co., of which he is still the artistic director.

“… I had this idea to make a company that did a back-and-forth with many countries — a cultural exchange through theater. And our first tour was of five plays back to Ireland,” he said. “It isn’t what we ended up doing, that was the first season. But I started to learn what really interested me and excited me aesthetically and what was not being done in Philadelphia. By the third year, I had a much clearer idea of what I wanted to do.”

This fall, InterAct is embarking on its 25th season. Rozin and his team have added some special events to the calendar to commemorate the occasion, in addition to their regular season.

“We’re doing a season of four plays and we’re bringing back our most successful production, Tom Gibbons’ ‘Permanent Collection,’ which was a huge hit in 2003,” Rozin said. “Then we have two events to celebrate: On Oct. 1, we’ll celebrate the last 25 years … and in April, … we’ll have a playwrights’ weekend to celebrate and renew the community of writers we have produced.”

The South Philly community, which Rozin joined 12 years ago when he bought his Italian Market home, is another group of which he is proud to be a member.

“I love it. I can’t imaging not living here,” the 48-year-old said.

As usual, Rozin has many things in the works, including the upcoming reading during PlayPenn. However, he already has begun work on another piece, inspired by his driving experiences through the Mummers New Year’s Day festivities en route to his family’s gathering every year.

“I’m hoping when it gets to the point of being done I can have a public reading and show it at some point in the South Philly community,” Rozin said. “It’s sort of suggestive about community and who we have. A lot of the Mummers — a lot of people — are part of an insular community, with a world view only a few blocks wide. But they have such a strong sense of belonging and family values and traditions.

“But I want to write it in the spirit of fun for a Philly audience — not to be critical, but to be honest.”

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