Student sitting at desk with hand raised, teacher pointing at and addressing him

Buffalo State Theater Department Premieres New Play by Local Playwright


The Buffalo State Theater Department is proud to present Teach, a new play that delves into the way the lines can blur in student-teacher dynamics, on stage in the Flexible Theatre February 19–25.

Student sitting on desk and teacher sitting behind desk with other character standing in the background

Written by Donna Hoke, the play centers on a principal, a teacher at his school, and a questionable relationship with a student. Teach tells the story of Ken and Chris, who were once teacher and student. Ten years have elapsed. The student has become a teacher, and the teacher is now the principal. Suspicion forces both characters to confront their past and the present, blurring the lines along the way.

Hoke is an award-winning local playwright and screenwriter whose work has been seen in 48 states and on five continents. A three-time winner of the Emanuel Fried Award for Outstanding New Play, she has also received an Individual Artist Award from the New York State Council on the Arts, and Artvoice named her Buffalo’s Best Writer three years in a row—the only woman to ever receive the designation.

Gender is fluid in this story, allowing the audience to focus on the situation rather than a specific character. There is both a male and female teacher, and a male and female student, which seamlessly change places throughout the play. This convention engages the audience in a unique and powerful way. The play reinforces a central theme—“The obligation to maintain boundaries lies with the one in the greater position of authority”—but challenges the audience to evaluate just what those boundaries are.

Four student actors from Teach sitting in a row

“I’m thrilled that Donna has entrusted the Buffalo State Theater Department with her play,” said Carol Beckley, associate professor and chair of the Theater Department. “The students have gained so much by having her in rehearsals and available.” 

This will be the first fully staged production of the play, which received a wildly enthusiastic response when it was read at the department’s Second Thursdays Reading Series. Students overwhelming voted to stage the production for the spring 2024 season at Buffalo State.

“I’m so excited to have these students bring the first production of Teach to its feet,” Hoke said. “After so many readings, workshop productions, and COVID-canceled productions, this play is ready! And these students have captured the play’s nuances and story as well as any professionals I’ve seen.”

Four student actors lined up, one smoking

The play has also been accepted for publication by Theatrical Rights Worldwide. Because all published plays include details of their debut performance, Buffalo State University and its student cast members and designers will be prominently featured in the front of the book. Teach features Buffalo State student actors Jemia Bennett, Zoe Goñez, Manuel Mejia, Myshawn Sikes, and Min Zo; and student designers Jaden Browne and Shawn Smith. 

“It’s been an amazing experience,” Beckley said, “and the fact that our students will be included in the print version is just phenomenal.”

The play is directed by Sabrina Kahwaty, an accomplished local actor and stage director.

“It’s been my privilege to work with these students on bringing Teach to the stage for the first time,” said Kahwaty, who holds a B.F.A. in theatre studies from Niagara University. “Their passion, hard work, and dedication have made this process a joy, and I can’t think of a group more deserving of having the honor of being the original cast.

“Good theater starts conversations, and Teach will do just that.”

Adults $20 (seniors $14); Buffalo State alumni, faculty, and staff members $14. Students $8 at the door with student ID.

February 19, 21, 22, 23, and 24 at 7:00 p.m.
February 24 at 2:00 p.m.
February 25 at 1:00 p.m.

Free matinee performance Friday, February 23, at 1:00 p.m. (first come, first served) 

The Flexible Theatre is located in the Savage Theater and Communication Building on the Buffalo State campus (PDF, 3.6 MB).

Photos by Jesse Steffan-Colucci, Buffalo State photographer.