Student Spotlight: UI playwright turns to livestreaming their writing process online amid COVID-19 outbreak

UI senior Cameron Speta has been writing plays since high school, and has started more frequently using a unique way to share their work while it’s being produced: Twitch


Contributed (Photographer: Brett Stone)

Josie Fischels, Arts Editor

Should one find Cameron Speta streaming on Twitch, they might be surprised to find that the UI senior and playwright isn’t always playing Overwatch as the category title suggests — they’re typing on a Word document.

According to Speta, the technique helps them to hold themselves accountable to writing regularly while practicing safe social distancing at home.

The process isn’t entirely new for Speta, who has used the idea before to write one of their full-length plays, but they said they foresee using it more in the future now that their usual writing spots, which included cafes, have been temporarily closed.

“With streaming, there is a live-chat function where people can talk to me about what’s going on on the page, or really anything they feel like, and sometimes it’s really helpful for me because they will ask me questions about a scene,” Speta said. “Sometimes just speaking it out loud and explaining it to someone else will help me better crystallize what I’m trying to say in a page or what a character is trying to get across in their dialogue.”

Speta has been writing plays since their sophomore year of high school. Primarily self-taught, Speta said they fell in love with the medium right away. They were later awarded the Iowa Center for the Arts scholarship for playwriting when they came to the University of Iowa to study theater arts.

Speta’s first play to be performed at the UI was a workshop production of Blood Moon in October 2019. Speta recently finished revisions on a science fiction piece titled Weird Science that they plan to submit to be performed once theaters reopen and is currently editing a three-act play titled Divine Ambition. Their work aims to include a diverse group of identities, they said, especially when it comes to gender and sexuality.

RELATED: Art student tells visual stories through comics

“Having representation is really important for me, because I don’t see myself represented a lot in the mainstream media,” Speta said. “It’s like, ‘well if I can’t find it, I’ll just make it myself!’”

Speta’s writing process hasn’t been the only thing to see change amid the COVID-19 pandemic. As a student and senior, adjusting to life and classes away from campus has been a challenge.

Speta said some of their in-person classes had to be canceled entirely rather than moving online, causing them to scramble to find the last few credits they needed to graduate. Additionally, the cancellation of the remainder of the Theatre Department’s season, including the annual New Play Festival, meant losing their final two opportunities to perform onstage.

“The theater arts courses really work best when you’re doing it all in person, so not being able to do that and work with my colleagues who I really enjoy being around — it’s tough,” they said.

For now, Speta said still being able to share their work with others despite being at home has brought them some comfort during this stressful time. Speta believes continuing to find ways to create can be helpful for other artists. Even if they are not creating their greatest work ever, they said, it can still help them find peace.

“There’s a lot of tweets out there that ‘Shakespeare wrote King Lear in the quarantine.’ I’m not Shakespeare, but I am trying my best,” they said. “And we can’t expect every artist to be Shakespeare in the quarantine, but if you feel like this is a stressful time, maybe look back to your practice. There’s a reason you love this.”