Franklin Ashley has been a professor at the College of Charleston since 1993. His playwriting classes have cultivated some major talent, with students’ work over the years being published and produced, and winning awards from such organizations as the Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival and the national New Play Development Workshop at the Association for Theatre in Higher Education.

While Under the Lights, a presentation of several short plays, isn’t directly associated with him, it’s because of him that it even happens. His Playwrights Tonight series, which he started in 1995, showcases his students’ talents in readings, and it could be argued that Under the Lights is an extension of that series. Lights was started almost eight years ago by two students, Hilary Trudell and Amy Swint, as an attempt to mount full productions of short student plays through Center Stage.

Mary Ruth Baggott, recently of Center Stage (and one of the cowriters of last Piccolo’s Wolfi), had the task of choosing which plays to produce this year. There were around 16 submissions, and 10 were selected for performance. The students either direct their own plays or have a director assigned to them.

One of this year’s plays won a local Raw Request Award, another was a KCACTF finalist, and another comes from student Michael Smallwood, who just had his award-winning Talk premiered at the Footlight Players Theatre downtown. But aside from all the honors, at heart, as Ashley says, “it’s a chance to show the students’ storytelling.”

Under the Lights • Piccolo Spoleto’s Piccolo’s Stelle Di Domani Series • $15, $12 seniors and students • (1 hour 45 min.) • June 4 and 5 at 8 p.m. • Chapel Theatre, 172 Calhoun St. • 554-6060

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