In Starstruck, a student production by K. David Cochran that runs for two performances today and Friday, art imitates life in more than one way.
"It's about a young playwright who's given an opportunity to produce his first play, within a school setting, and his attempt to get the department star to participate in it," Cochran said of his play, which stars Dustin Ross, Beau Gregersen, Jeff Blizzard and Brent Smith.
When asked about his motivation for the story, though, Cochran hesitates a bit.
"Well, it was ... it was working through a crush. Putting it on paper and getting rid of it," Cochran said. "There were actually two people in my head when I started creating the character of the star. As I began to write, they formed Randy, who is the (star) character, and by the end of it, I didn't see them at all."
While the plotline of Starstruck may follow a very specific pattern, Cochran feels that larger themes will also be clearly visible to anyone who opens his mind to their experience.
"It's about finding your place, 'cause the biggest search that the character goes through is discovering his ability to write, finding his place in the scheme of the school," said Cochran. "It's also about working through past pain, 'cause there's an ex-boyfriend that he deals with in the story."
Rehearsals for Starstruck, which is being directed by graduate student Brenda Brunston, have only been underway for two weeks since much of the cast was involved with the School of Theatre's production of Romeo and Juliet. Not to worry, though - Starstruck clocks in with only one 45-minute act.
"Everybody's been working really hard. I'm very pleased with what they're doing," said Cochran. "I think everybody's had their heads on straight. It's been interesting putting them through what I'm putting them through. There are a couple of moments we had to work at, to make them real."
The impetus for getting Starstruck going as a student production was Cochran's success at Worldfest Houston last spring, where he entered a screenwriting competition. His biography of a famous '20s jazz trumpeter placed in the top ten there and was in the top three in a similar contest in Charleston. As a result, Cochran is fielding a number of offers, including a screenwriting fellowship from Walt Disney.
All these "big-time" offers may seem like indications of a big head, but Cochran is taking it all in stride.
"It's just taken me a long time to get to the point that I'm at ... I mean there's some excitement, but I'm not gonna go overboard with it," Cochran said. He's also made a screenplay pitch to DreamWorks Pictures via some very handy connections. Currently, Cochran is studying acting at the School of Theatre.
While all that newfound preoccupation has allayed some of the nervousness that should come with mounting a play, Cochran did find himself buzzing with a few feelings recently.
"It hit me yesterday. We were setting up lights for the show, and it just kinda struck me: 'Yes, this is happening.' I started getting some butterflies," admitted Cochran. "I'm a pacer. I usually don't watch the show. I'll be outside pacing up and down."
Cochran said he made himself watch the rehearsals this time out, and he hopes the audience will extract the same things from the show that he has.
"I just want them to have a good time. It's a personal story, but it's a fun story," said Cochran. "I try not to get too heavy with the stuff that I write. I do a lot of comedy. I get a kick out of reading comedies and writing comedies. Laughter's my big thing."
Performances of Starstruck are at 8 p.m. tonight and 2 p.m. Friday at the University of Houston School of Theatre Lab Theatre, Entrance 16 off Cullen. Admission is free, and seating is limited, so please arrive early. Call (713) 743-2929 for more information.