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Creative writing major DeJane’ Penick ’26 interns with local playwright

DeJane’ Penick ’26

DeJane’ Penick ’26 is always brimming with ideas, but it wasn’t until the pandemic that she began putting them down on paper.

“During quarantine,” she said, “I had all the time in the world to write.”

Penick has since self-published two books and is now majoring in English and creative writing at Randolph.

This spring, she interned with local playwright Teresa Harris, who has written a series of plays called The Day Is Past and Gone, focusing on the men and women who were enslaved at Poplar Forest.

“I create stories based on real-life people who, according to records that were kept, lived on the plantation,” said Harris, program coordinator in Randolph’s Office of Student Success. “Actual historical accounts are sparse but, occasionally, there will be a record of occurrences that pique the imagination. Those are the stories I usually gravitate toward.”

The plays are always presented as trilogies, with three short vignettes staged together over the course of one evening.

As part of her internship, Penick is starring in Edy and Abby: A Tale of Two Sisters, which will be performed this weekend with two other plays penned by Harris as the latest iteration of The Day Is Past and Gone.

Harris encouraged Penick to make her stage debut as part of their work together. Being involved with the material in that way, she said, will help develop Penick’s storytelling skills, understanding of basic storyline progression, and character development.

“When you portray a character, you become more connected to the material,” Harris said. “You give your character a backstory even if the audience doesn’t always know it, and that helps your writing. I like the fact that she’s told me things about Edy, the character she portrays, I hadn’t thought about. The way she reads the lines lets me know she gets it.”

Penick said she’s made those connections between her character and her own life during rehearsals.

“Whenever I say my lines, I always think of my own sister and what I would feel like if I saw her on borrowed time that I couldn’t control,” she said.

Penick also shared her own writing with Harris, who envisions it being adapted into a play or film script.

“DeJane’ is a great writer, and I’m looking forward to working with her more extensively,” Harris said. “She’s very receptive to new ideas and new ways of thinking. She has embraced this whole process.”

The Day is Past and Gone will be performed outdoors at Poplar Forest on Friday, May 19, and Saturday, May 20, at 6:30 p.m. A Q&A with Harris, Penick, the rest of the cast, and Poplar Forest’s archaeology and interpretation staff will follow the performance. Find out more at

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