By Roger Walk
Jeanne Hensel, who was raised in Chester and lived most of her life here, retired from Ecoff Elementary School four years ago. While teaching at Ecoff, she started writing plays for her second graders, she said, to have fun with history classes and learn about famous Americans.
What started as writing a short play for a learning project, which just happened to be fun for her students, Ms. Hensel consistently got high marks, scoring prizes, at the 28th annual One-Act Playwriting Competition of the Henrico Theater Company (HCT).
Hensels’s first place mystery comedy, “Loving and Devoted,” will be showcased together with the second and third placed plays during the second and third weekend in February by HCT at The Cultural Arts Center at Glen Allen.
Beginning 18 years ago, Hensel produced, directed and even acted in comedies, which she had written for a fundraiser dinner theater at Beulah United Methodist Church. Encouraged by the response of her audiences she began to submit her one-act comedies to the HCT annual playwriting competitions. In 2011 and then 2013 she won third place with her comedies “Merle & Pearl” and “Paris or Bust,” respectively. In this year’s competition she made it all the way to first place.
Hensel, who says that she enjoys making people laugh, explains “I write a lot in my head before I put it to paper.” In her winning comedy “Loving and Devoted,” detectives are puzzled when Debra and Albert Williams, a loving and devoted couple, are found dead in their middle-class suburban home. A veteran on the police force allows two inexperienced rookies to study the clues to determine their cause of death. Was it murder? Suicide? A horrible accident? And, were they a loving and devoted couple after all? The reaction of the theater audience in the auditorium at The Cultural Center at Glen Allen, where the plays are shown over two weekends, attests that Hensel is very good in bringing joy and laughter to people.
The one-act playwriting competition sponsored and organized by HCT attracts entries from all over the country and sometimes from Canada and Europe. HCT gives budding playwrights the opportunity to have their work shown on stage.
The top three plays are produced and showcased by HCT on the stage of The Cultural Arts Center at Glen Allen with free admission for a theater-loving audience from a wide radius.