Case Dekoning-A Playwright with a Passion for Exploration

Faculty Shout-Out by Dr. Steve Rachman: “Case is funny, talented, and smart. He is also a theater major along with his English degree and has combined his interests in many ways. I was thrilled to see him play the role of Prince Charming in an MSU production of Stephen Sondheim’s “Into the Woods.” He has a knack for combining his interests and writing intelligent papers. By far, the most remarkable work, has been his development of a curriculum dealing with “Existentialism and Mental Health.” In this work, he is creating a fully-fledged course with materials and lesson plans, using existential literature and drama to address emotional crises and explore its therapeutic values. Like everything Case does, it is highly original, wide-ranging, thoughtful, serious and yet full of good humor with a healthy regard for life’s absurdities. These are excellent qualities to get us through these times.”

How would you describe your time as an English or Film Studies major at MSU?

Exploratory. My time in the English Department has been defined by opportunity after opportunity to try something new and shift my perspective. While giving my foundational skills in reading, writing, literary analysis, etc. the necessary focus they needed, I was also able to push my literary boundaries and round out my skillset as a writer, educator, and artist.

Which classes, instructors, or experiences particularly stand out for you and why? How did they prepare you for the next phase of your life?

My class on adaptive theory with Professor Rachman was a blast—taking classic works of literature and analyzing how they’ve been adapted to the screen, stage, YA genre, etc. was some of the most fascinating work I’ve done in the department. If you graduate without taking one of his classes, you haven’t used your time here well. Can’t recommend him any higher. This class in particular even inspired me to eventually do an Independent Study with the theater department to research stage adaptions of novels in the bildungsroman genre.

What advice would you give future English or Film Studies majors, based on your experiences in the department?

Make bold artistic choices. You really don’t know where your talents lie until you take a risk and find a place to shine. Most of the time you’ll take a risk and make a mild, fleeting embarrassment of yourself—but nobody is here to judge, and it’s all in pursuit of finding that one little corner that you excel in beyond any other.

What coursework-related projects were/are you working on this year, and what interests or excites you about them?

I spent this last year putting on a student production of my play The Seeds of Corruption with Second Stage Productions, while also researching and building a secondary and post-secondary curriculum around existential literature as a tool for improving mental health. I adore playwrighting and have been acting in plays since early high school, so putting on my own play was an experience like no other. I also found existential literature to be a great tool for mental clarity during the pandemic and wanted to create a resource that could give students in similar circumstances the resources to find purpose and meaning in a world that doesn’t dish it out for free.

What are your hopes and aspirations, post-graduation?

My greatest aspiration post-graduation is to continue to write and produce content for the screen and stage. However, I also adore teaching and am very excited to be in the English classroom while simultaneously pursuing my artistic endeavors.

If you’re interested in doing so, please reflect a bit on the strange experience of being a graduating senior during the ongoing pandemic. What resources have been most useful to you in navigating this unprecedented situation?

I spoke a little about this in sharing about my existentialism Independent Study, but I found some stability in the pandemic by reading Camus, writing veraciously, and exploring Absurdism in my life, relationships, humor, and just general day-to-day goings on about the town.