“I heard my name called,” Stephen Poulos said, “and I felt a wash of emotion come over me.”
“When I was up there,” Wren Roberts smiled, “it was pretty overwhelming.”
No, Steve and Wren hadn’t been conversing with St. Peter at the gates of heaven. Moments before, Batavia Mayor Jeff Schielke announced the first-place winners of the literary and acting reality game show, “Project Publish.” Steve won for his performances and Wren for her scripts.
After watching the finale Sunday, aired live at Batavia’s BATV studios, I had the pleasure and privilege of talking with them.
“I put as much as I could into every piece I acted out,” Steve said. “Every day I came home and worked on the manuscript. What kind of character am I going to do it in? What kind of voice?”
“Project Publish” allows actors only three days to prepare an interpretation of the prose or poetry created by their team writer.
“One performance can make or break you,” Steve said. Looking at Wren, he added, “I credit your writing style.”
He had interpreted Wren’s hilarious twist on the Sleeping Beauty fairy tale while wearing a white tunic and rope belt, looking like a thinner, bearded, handsomer Shrek.
“I did Sleeping Beauty because it’s the fairy tale I hate the most,” Wren laughed. “I did kind of a Monty Python number on it.”
“I dig medieval times,” Steve said. “I got to be my crazy peasant self.”
Of the narrative and acting, writing judge Don Bingle said, “It was a very funny story.” Guest host Schielke praised, “Exceptionally well done.” Performance judge Amber Mitchell, owner of Stageworks, “loved the ‘Spamalot.’ ”
Wren, in her 20s, works with special needs students and is writing a science-fiction thriller. She hopes writer and Fox Valley Writers Group facilitator Kevin Moriarity, volunteering his expertise to the winners, will help her get published.
“I wasn’t originally going to get involved,” Wren confessed, “but my friends said that I always tell them they should say yes to new challenges, so they got me to say yes to this one.”
“I’m very proud,” Steve summed up, “to have done this performance for Batavia, for my students, for my family and for the Batavia Fine Arts Center. Everything has come to fruition.”
“Steve did a great job with my piece,” Wren said. “And I’d just like to thank everyone who voted for me.”
These two young artists bear out the final stanza of Richard Graves’ poem he read at last summer’s Batavia Arts Fair, when Kimberly Kozar, the show’s producer, heard it, inspiring “Project Publish”:
A season of battles ... and when it’s all over,
One lucky pair will be dancing in clover.
A tense final week, then joy hard to bridle
As first season winners of “Open-Mike Idol.”
To follow Season 1 in pictures and posts, read the entire poem, and learn about Season 2, visit www.facebook.com/groups/projectpublish. As Kozar posts there, “Really, every single one of the contestants, crew, and creators are winners for bringing this idea to life.”
• Rick Holinger has lived in the Fox Valley and taught high school English there since 1979. His poetry, fiction, essays, and book reviews have appeared in more than 100 literary journals. He founded and facilitates the St. Charles Writers Group. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.