Wiltonian’s first play premieres Sunday
As a young teenager, Lissy Rose became fascinated with a play about two Irish sisters who immigrated to America. It was written by a mentor and inspired her to begin writing her own play.
“I become so intrigued with my story I locked myself in my room until I wrote it down,” she said. “I would write every night.”
Now, at age 20, Rose is overseeing a production of her play at the Fairfield Theatre Company on June 30 to benefit a local nonprofit organization that helps people with special needs.
The play, “A Deadly Game of Chess,” is set in London in 1938 and focuses on best friends Robyn and Anton. Robyn returns home from an extended trip to discover her best friend’s perfect life is a facade.
“Unearthed secrets launch the two manipulative personalities into a deadly mind game in which their friends become their pawns,” according to publicity material.
In addition to writing the play, including the music, Rose is the director and producer.
It will be the first work by Rose, who goes by the pen name “Melody Rose” as a playwright, to reach the stage but likely won’t be her last.
“I want to write and produce professionally,” she said. “I want to be the kind of writer that changes lives and people study in school. I’m not talking about being rich and famous, but about helping people look at the world in a different way.”
She’s essentially self-financing the professional production, which features four actors as well as a music director, choreographer, costume maker, stage crew and publicist. Some of those involved are her friends, but others are young professionals beginning their theatrical careers.
Rose works multiple jobs to help fund the project, including at a Westport bar, a Ridgefield taco restaurant and being a nanny for a local family.
“The show, in a way, became my salvation,” she said, explaining she’s faced some health issues. “It was a way I could feel productive and not be sitting around feeling sorry for myself.”
Rose lives in Wilton and is a 2017 Wilton High School graduate. Her parents’ musical and design interests were an influence while growing up. “I was raised on The Beatles,” she said.
She became involved in acting at a young age at Norwalk’s Crystal Theatre, performing in 30 shows over 15 years with the children’s theatrical troupe that specializes in original productions. She toured Budapest with the theater in 2017 as part of the original cast of “Hungarian Nights.”
Cheryl Kemeny, Crystal Theatre artistic director and co-director, wrote the original play about immigrants that intrigued Rose when younger, called “Ellis Island Trilogy.” It became a basis for the play Rose would work to refine and finalize during her teenage years, although Rose’s script eventually went in a different direction.
Kemeny said Rose became interested in play structure as a child acting at the theater.
“She’s a good actress but she really gravitated to writing,” Kemeny said. “She’s a very creative person and driven to achieve. These are very important factors in becoming a writer. You have to be a self-starter, and she is.”
Rose said she prefers to be in the background rather than always being on stage. “I don’t need to perform,” she said. “I’m happy to watch my work.”
After high school, Rose attended college in Chicago before deciding to return to Connecticut. Along with her job and theatrical obligations, she takes classes at New York University in script-writing, music composition and history.
She loves learning about history, an interest piqued as a child by watching a time-and-space travel podcast that highlights famous historical figures.
She’s working on making an animated web series about John and Abigail Adams, which she described as a historically accurate sitcom about the loving relationship between the country’s second president and his feminist wife. She’s already written many episodes and is lining up an animation studio and voice actors.
She’s written a short movie script about a pair of sisters living on opposite sides of the Potomac River during the Civil War and is working on another story based on the King Phillip’s War involving Native Americans and New England colonists in the late 1600s.
Rose certainly has no shortage of ideas and uses self-motivation to keep pushing forward. “Nothing is going to happen unless you make it happen,” she said.
Her webpage on backstage.com, a site for people in the entertainment industry, describes her as someone “who’s passionate about all things theater and won’t sleep until she gives 110%.”
Rose said it’s likely her eventual career will be in theater, films or television, and perhaps even involve video games or radio.
She wants the people around her to be as committed to a mission as herself. “Working with people who are passionate means they won’t let you down,” Rose said.
Peyton Matik, 17, of Wilton has been Rose’s friend for about a half-dozen years and is the upcoming play’s music director. They met while acting together at the Crystal Theatre.
“She’s so incredibly driven and determined,” Matik said of Rose. “She’s one of the most creative people I’ve ever met.”
All proceeds of “A Deadly Game of Chess” will go to Circle of Friends, a Norwalk-based group that provides social experiences to children, teens and young adults with autism and disabilities.
The play will be performed Sunday, June 30, at 4 p.m. at FTC in Fairfield. Tickets are $15 for adults and $10 for students and available at www.fairfieldtheatre.org. Play information is available at www.adeadlygameofchess.com.