Jennings native experiencing national success as playwright

<p class="p1">Chelsea Marcantel</p>American Press composite

<p class="p1">Growing up in Jennings, Chelsea Marcantel would have never imagined that her passion for reading and acting would one day lead to her dream of becoming a playwright.

<p class="p1">“When I was growing up I loved books,” Marcantel said. “My grandmother and mother were librarians so I always loved stories.”

<p class="p1">She is the daughter of Greg and Jean Marcantel.

<p class="p1">As a young girl, Marcantel also developed a love for acting and the theater. She spent her formative years involved in local community theater performing with the CHIPS youth theater group at the Strand Theater, where she found solace in the self-expression of art.

<p class="p1">“I grew up doing community theater and always felt supported by the people of Jennings,” she said. “Those years in theater were formative for me.”

<p class="p1">With her love of the theater, acting and reading, Marcantel is now living the dream of an emerging playwright and director.

<p class="p1">“I’ve been writing plays since I was a little kid,” Marcantel said. “I used to make my brother and sister do plays for my parents.”

<p class="p1">She graduated from Louisiana State University in 2005 with a double major in English and theater. She graduated in 2006 with a masters in English education.

<p class="p1">After LSU, Marcantel spent six years working the theater scene in Chicago where she received the Emerging Playwright Award from the Chicago Union League Civic and Arts Foundation.

<p class="p1">“I worked a lot doing storefront theaters and writing short, one-act plays,” she said.

<p class="p1">In 2011, she and her husband, Miles Polaski, a sound designer and composer, moved to Virginia where she continued writing and teaching English and playwriting at Emory and Henry College. She also taught theater and English at Virginia Intermont College, 2012-2013.

<p class="p1">In 2016, she completed a Lil Acheson Wallace American Playwrights Fellowship at the Juilliard School and is currently working on commissions from the San Francisco Playhouse and Delaware Theater Company.

<p class="p1">She, Miles and their dog, Boudin, are currently moving from New York City to Los Angeles, where Marcantel will continue to pursue her career as a playwright. She hopes to continue theater work, but hopes to expand into television.

<p class="p1">“I’ve always thought I’ve had very important things to say,” Marcantel laughed.

<p class="p1">She has written over 30 plays, and her resume includes nearly a dozen one-act and full-length plays, including “Airness,” “Everything is Wonderful,” “Ladyish,” “Devour” and “Tiny Houses.”

<p class="p1">She landed her big break with the premiere of “Airness” at the Actors Theater of Louisville earlier this year. The play is about the world of air guitar and has been getting great reviews, Marcantel said.

<p class="p1">“The play was a real labor of love,” Marcantel said, noting she is proud of the recognition it is receiving. “Years ago while living in Chicago I knew people who were involved in the air guitar scene. I thought it was pretty dumb until I saw a documentary about two years ago and something clicked. I finally got it, and I thought, ‘This looks like fun’ and would make a good setting for a play.”

<p class="p1">“Airness” earned her the M. Elizabeth Osborn New Play Award from the American Theatre Critics Association. The award, which recognizes her as an emerging playwright, was presented last weekend at the Humana Festival of New American Plays in Louisville.

<p class="p1">“Airness” concerns a woman entering her first air guitar competition. There she discovers there’s an art form at the center of what may seem on the surface like just people pretending to play instruments.

<p class="p1">A panelist on the ATCA New Play Committee, which selects the Osborn winner, called it “much more than a lark about a stranger in a strange land. It does what too few plays do….transforms audience assumptions. And it does it without condescending and with a wonderful sweetness and sincerity.” Another added, “It’s a play that demonstrates the value of choosing ties with others that transcend preconceived conceptions.”

<p class="p1">Marcantel’s play “Tiny Houses” has also been awarded the 2018 Roe Green Award by the Cleveland Play House. The play will receive a workshop and reading as part of the New Ground Theatre Festival in May, and will have a co-production world premiere at Cleveland Play House and Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park in 2019.