Most actresses audition for a play.
Junior theater student Chrysty Wheeling wrote and produced her own instead.
Since before she arrived at Temple, in 1999 from Lancaster County, PA, Wheeling has known that theater is her passion.
While she has performed in and worked on props and sound design for several of Temple’s past productions, writing remains “the venue that allows [Christy] to express [herself] the most.”
Her most recent project, “God is a Big Fat Chipmunk”, ran for a week at the well-known Walnut Street Theater as part of Philadelphia’s Fringe Festival.
Wheeling became involved in the Fringe back in 2000 when she performed as part of “The Trap.” Two years later, at the age of 21, she has her own production.
The play tells the surreal story of a young girl named Charlie, played by Julianna Sikaik, trying to photograph sound.
All the characters, which include the mayor, played by Donovan Hagins, a chicken, played by Davey White, and the butler, played by Newell Gatrel, think the girl’s crazy, especially when the photograph turns out to be a picture of the girl.
For Charlie, sound, as with everything in her life, becomes whatever she wants. In this case, it becomes a self-portrait.
Entertaining as well as intellectual, the piece revolves around the idea that people, experiences and life in general are whatever one wants them to be.
Hence, God is a big fat chipmunk.
Although writing a quality play is an undertaking, production means finding and coordinating the efforts of actors, designer, director, stage manager, lighting crew, etc.
Wheeling has tried to produce a play once before, but it fell apart because of casting problems.
So this time around, much of the cast and crew of “God is a Big Fat Chipmunk” include fellow Temple students.
“A lot of people wouldn’t be able to take on” the strenuous task of producing, said Hagins, a Temple alum.
The toughest part for Wheeling was “believing [she] could do it,” he said.
Now that Wheeling knows she can produce her own work, she feels next time around she will be able to put more trust in her abilities and instincts.
Moving from high school actress to producer of an original piece for the Philadelphia Fringe Festival is a major progression.
The humble Wheeling believes her artistic development is a natural part of “growing as a human.”
Hagins has noticed her progress.
Wheeling is taking control of her creative destiny instead of ” waiting around to be cast.”
Wheeling began exploring surrealist theater on her own, but Temple’s Theater Arts and Playwriting instructor Kimmika Williams-Witherspoon inspired her to get involved with performance poetry.
Witnessing Williams-Witherspoon’s “passion for poetry” has motivated Wheeling to write and perform her own work.
Though Wheeling won’t reveal much about her current work in progress, her other plans include a collaboration with close friends for street theater productions.
She plans to eventually expand “God is a Big Fat Chipmunk” into a full-length play, and see the revised version through production.
However, with a year and a half left at Temple, Wheeling is concentrating on school.
Watch out for Wheeling on First Fridays in Old City, where she often takes up a street corner and performs for the gallery-goers.
And if you should see a petite blonde attacking the streets of Philadelphia with poetry and theater, pay attention.
She’ll have something insightful to say.
Rachel Barbara can be reached at Rbarbara@temple.edu