Sam Cohan '05, who has appeared in numerous Bowdoin productions and spent last fall studying Shakespearean acting in England, has expanded his horizons into playwriting. He describes his play, tenpinhighway, as "an existential character study of eight Americans and the lives they lead." The play premiered at Dartmouth in April 2004 and was a semi-finalist in the 2004 Last Frontier's Playwright Festival. Here at Bowdoin, Davin Michaels '06 directs the four shows in Wish Theater from September 29 to October 3. The Orient caught up with Cohan to find out more about his idea for the play and his process in writing it.

Orient: What inspired you to write your own play?

Sam Cohan: I've always been interested in words, in language, and I have done theater for as long as I can remember, so writing originally became just a different way of exploring my love of theater. The play was inspired by a play called bobrauschenbergamerica by playwright Charles Mee. The way Mee writes is incredibly inspiring, he believes that if something can happen in his mind, it should be able to happen in some form on stage.

O: Are the characters based on people you know?

SC: The characters in the play are all based on various people I've met in my life, but also are very rooted in who I am as a person. I was interested in exploring what happens to people who, in some ways, have their horizons limited by various problems, both personal and social. For this reason, the characters speak poetically, in a heightened language we do not associate with these types of people. To borrow a line from Charles Mee, I've written characters that "sound right to me."

O: How does jazz tie into the play?

SC: The play takes place in a very American environment. Jazz is incredibly important to the play and is a truly American art form. The characters are like a jazz combo, an eclectic group of voices with different backgrounds all sounding and moving towards a greater truth and understanding of our world. I am psyched about the live jazz band. They're providing this amazing, sexy energy to the show that I've never seen before.

O: How has this production of the play lived up to your expectations and how has Davin, as a director, made it possible?

SC: The best directors show sides of the story that the writer never saw and Davin has definitely found some truths in the play that I didn't realize were there. Also, the set that Leo (Landrey '05) designed is absolutely beautiful and works perfectly for the show. This production is incredibly exciting not just because it is at Bowdoin, but because it is the first production of tenpin that will have all the elements I originally pictured.

O: What do you hope that tenpinhighway will accomplish?

SC: Ultimately, the play fulfills the idea that a playwright writes a play and each audience member writes their own. My hope is that each audience member, in some way, will find some truth in these characters, something that makes them reflect on themselves and their world.