Mason Student Has a Passion for Writing

Posted: August 19, 2008 at 1:00 am, Last Updated: November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

By Catherine Ferraro

As a former political campaign advisor, Mason student John Tuohy never imagined that his passion for writing would lead him to earn him first place in a playwriting competition, publish his first short fiction piece and develop a program for foster children to express themselves through a 10-minute play.

Even before his play “Cyberdate.com” was selected as the student winner of the Theater of the First Amendment (TFA) First Light Discovery Program, Tuohy, a full-time bachelor of individualized study student in the Mason theater program, beat out 74 other playwrights from around the world at the Chicago Irish Fest playwriting competition in May.

His play “The Hannigans of Beverly” focuses on five generations of an Irish immigrant family coming full circle in the predominantly Irish community of Beverly in Chicago. To be considered, plays could only be one page long and had to be relevant to the history of the Chicago Irish and teach its reader.

His knowledge about Chicago and Irish immigrants comes from the time he spent working for the Chicago Crime Commission as a consultant, writing for AmericanMafia.com and the book he wrote titled “When Capone’s Mob Murdered Roger Tuohy: The Strange Case of ‘Jake the Barber’ and the Kidnapping that Never Happened.”

With encouragement from his professors, Tuohy decided to try his hand at writing fiction and will publish his first short fiction piece, “Karma Finds Franny Glass,” in the literary magazine Admit Two in September.

“I have worked with several Mason professors including Heather McDonald, associate professor of theater, and Stephen Goodwin, professor of English, both of whom have been inspirations to me,” says Tuohy. “They are so dedicated to what they do and care so much about their students.”

Following in the footsteps of Anne Holton, wife of Virginia Governor Tim Kaine, who has devoted her career to serving as an advocate for families and children, Touhy has been working with Mark Rudnicki, assistant professor of English, to create the first Foster Children’s 10-Minute Play Fest to bring awareness to the public about the struggles foster children go through.

The festival invites people from all over the country who have been in foster care for at least two years within the last 40 years, those who have been a foster parent for no less than one year and social workers directly involved in the placement of children into foster care.

The plays can be typed or handwritten and must be original, unpublished, unproduced, and 10 minutes long. All submissions will be judged by a panel of writers, actors, directors and educators. Winners will be announced on May 1, 2009, and will receive a $100 prize.

Students in the Theater Department have volunteered to work with the participants and teach them how to write a play, how a theater operates and will also perform in the plays.

“The ultimate goal is for this to become an annual Mason program,” says Tuohy. “We don’t care about their spelling or grammar. We just want them to have an outlet to express their passion, truth and emotion.”

Tuohy, who will graduate next year, hopes to go on to teach high school English. He is currently working on his first novel titled “Voices from the Valley” about everyday life of the working class in the valley he is from in Connecticut.

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