Student created, Shakespeare inspired

One USF student will take his creation to the stage.

Harrison Baxley, a sophomore majoring in theatre art, argues in his original play, “The Fishmonger,” that humanity’s sense of good and bad is ultra-relative.

Through this play, Baxley explores loss, identity, family and acceptance and hopes to convey the fickleness of human nature.

“‘The Fishmonger’ is a play about a good man who sells fish and his son who falls in love with a mermaid. Unfortunately, sexual relations with the mermaid lead to the boy turning into a fish himself,” the play’s description read.

Baxley says his inspiration for “The Fishmonger” came from a scene from Hamlet where Polonius is called a “fishmonger,” which is a person who sells fish. In Hamlet, they are considered to be honest and kind people. To challenge the notion that people are inherently good or bad, Baxley crafted this play.

Although it took Baxley a month to write the play, he still considers it a working draft since he is constantly receiving feedback from his peers and improving it.

“The wonderful and terrifying thing about live theatre is [that] the show will continue to change and grow after it’s performed,” Baxley said.

With the help of Meredith Donovan, another student at USF, Baxley was able to incorporate a musical element in the piece.

Baxley wrote the lyrics and Donovan wrote the music. Both of them admire each other’s talents and credit their collaboration for coming up with the play.

“It is such a fun process to write for someone that’s as talented and driven as he is,” Donovan said.

Baxley’s experience as a playwright continues to expand as he journeys through college, but it began in high school with a co-written one-act musical. During the same year, another of his scripts was directed and produced by the student theatre at The University of Miami.

Baxley values those experiences and expressed his gratitude to Bulls for Broadway for giving him an opportunity to see one of his creations take form through a workshop of the play.

“Plays are meant to be heard, not read, so when you’re writing a script you want to get it heard as often and by as many people as possible,” said Baxley.

Baxley’s love for theatre extends to performing as well, as he has acted in several productions from “The Crucible” to “Into the Woods” to his own play, “Grocery Stories.”

For now, Baxley hopes to continue cultivating his abilities as a playwright and performer by engaging with the material taught within his major.

“At USF, I’ve been exposed to more and more obscure and evocative writing,” Baxley said. “USF offers classes in script analysis, theatre history, American drama and more that help students find work that will challenge and excite them.”

There is a free staged reading of “The Fishmonger” on April 6 at 3 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. in USF’s TAR 120. A fully staged production will happen next Fall.

“The Fishmonger” is a manifestation of Baxley’s passion for playwriting and he is confident that theatre will always remain a part of his life.

“I love writing and performing for the theatre,” Baxley said. “If I could just do those two things forever, I’d be more than happy with that.”