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Interview with Plays by Young Writers Costume Designer, Jordyn Smiley

January 16, 2019

Playwrights Project will produce its 34th annual festival of Plays by Young Writers at The Sheryl and Harvey White Theatre in the Conrad Prebys Theatre Center at The Old Globe on January 10 – 12 & 22 – 26, 2019. The festival will feature winning scripts from its California Young Playwrights Contest for ages 18 and under.

Contest winners were selected from 415 plays submitted by students from across the state. Three scripts will receive full professional productions, and two scripts will receive staged readings in this highly regarded festival of new voices.

Costume Designer Jordyn Smiley teaches Fashion and Costume at San Diego Mesa College. She has built costumes for The Old Globe, McCarter Theatre, Two River Theater, and Disney Imagineering. Previous costume designs include Romeo, Romeo & Juliet, 2017 and 2018 Plays by Young Writers, The Jungle Book, Crimes of the Heart, Assassins, Glorious Ones, and All Shook Up.

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Jordyn on the Opening Night of 2018’s Plays by Young Writers Festival

What’s your vision for this year’s plays?

My vision for this year’s plays is to create characters that help tell the playwright’s stories.  I want to be true to the playwrights’ intents, and allow the costumes to accentuate their idea of who each character is.

Describe a few images that come to mind when you’re conceptualizing the costumes for this year’s plays. 

For Trash, I envisioned a junk drawer of sorts. A place where we tend to put the odds and ends in our life that we forget about.  The half-finished post-it notes, the old charging cables, an old chapstick, or a plastic toy from the dollar store.  For Sea of Fog, I found that I kept coming back to an image of a dark courtyard with a layer of mist on the ground.  None of these images are very costume-related, but to me they all conveyed a core reaction that I wanted the audience to feel when they saw the characters on stage.

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Jordyn’s design concept for the character of Rusty

What questions did you ask about the characters as you started to visualize them?

I started with the typical character questions such as how old they were, what season is it, where is the action taking place, etc.  Then I went further into each character and asked what do they want in the play, what kind of a life have they had until now, what type of message do they want to send, etc.  I had a lot of fun visualizing the characters for Trash.  Since most of the characters are inanimate objects, I had to think about not only what type of personality each character had but also what elements of the objects could help represent that personality.  For example, Rusty, who is a piece of rusted metal, is very bitter and doesn’t believe there is any hope in getting out of his current situation due to his past experiences. I started to visualize a costume that had sections of banged up metal plates, similar to armor in a way.  Rusty uses sarcasm and anger as his armor to protect him from what he perceives as a hopeless world.  He has been hurt in the past and has emotional battle scars, which are symbolized in the dents and dings of his “armor”.

What do you hope the young playwrights will learn from this experience?

I hope the playwrights will learn just what goes into putting together a realized production, and what a creative, collaborative process it can be.  Most of all, I hope they think that it was a rewarding experience and feel encouraged to continue to create theatre!

Come see Jordyn’s costume designs come to life during Plays by Young Writers!

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For more information and to reserve tickets online, visit http://www.playwrightsproject.org/productions/pbyw/

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Interview with Thomas Hodges, Composition Mentor for Trash! The Musical and former Plays by Young Writers playwright

January 11, 2019

Playwrights Project will produce its 34th annual festival of Plays by Young Writers at The Sheryl and Harvey White Theatre in the Conrad Prebys Theatre Center at The Old Globe on January 10 – 12 & 22 – 26, 2019. The festival will feature winning scripts from its California Young Playwrights Contest for ages 18 and under.

Contest winners were selected from 415 plays submitted by students from across the state. Three scripts will receive full professional productions, and two scripts will receive staged readings in this highly regarded festival of new voices.

Thomas Hodges is a New York based composer from sunny San Diego. His newest musical Sonata 1962 with collaborator Patricia Loughrey was part of the 2018 New York Musical Festival and received three awards including “Outstanding Musical Arrangements and Orchestrations”.  In 2015 his music song cycle The Things We Never Say won “Outstanding Original Score” at the San Diego Fringe Festival.  The production was done by Breakthrough Workshop Theatre and a cast album is available on iTunes and Spotify.  His score for Patricia Loughrey’s Dear Harvey is available from Playscripts. Other projects of his include Dorian an adaptation of The Picture of Dorian GrayUnderground (book by John Viscardi) a new musical about street kids living in the NYC subway tunnels, and various solo albums available on iTunes and Spotify.

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Photo credit: Karli Cadel

Please tell me about work in theatre outside of this festival and how your work in Plays by Young Writers differs from your other work.

I am a composer and music director working in New York City. My newest musical with playwright Patricia Loughrey, Sonata 1962, was part of the 2018 New York Musical Festival and is being workshopped now. I also play cabaret’s and auditions around the city.

Can you share with us any details about your vision for the musical?

My “vision” is just in full support of Naomi and the creative process.

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Thomas virtually congratulates this year’s winning playwrights at Lights Up! Playwrights Take the Stage

What caught your attention most when you first read the script?

I loved the music! Naomi is an excellent songwriter and the songs are catchy and clever. The characters coming alive in the way they do resonated with me as a writer and exemplified some of the frustration that I too face while writing a new story.

Can you elaborate on your role as Composition Mentor to Naomi and describe the mentorship process? 

My role was to be there for any questions Naomi had in forming the score for the Music Director and cast. There is a lot that goes into formatting a score and making the music readable. Naomi would send me songs through a notation program called Finale and I would edit the keys, format the pages, create audio files, and give suggestions in order for her to achieve the sound she had envisioned.

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Thomas at age 17, when his play Stage Directions was produced during Plays by Young Writers

As a past winning playwright, how did your experience with PBYW shape your journey as a professional theater maker?

When my play Stage Directions was produced and I worked with Ruff on its development at the age of seventeen, it was my first time bringing other people into the creative process, which is scary and so necessary. Then to go from receiving and giving creative input into production- it was magical. I think it made me a writer for life. I’ll never forget that experience and how it shaped me.

Trash! The Musical can be seen during Program A of Plays by Young Writers, on  Saturday Jan. 26th at 7:30 PM.

For more information, please contact Playwrights Project at (858) 384-2970 or write@playwrightsproject.org.

Visit http://www.playwrightsproject.org/productions/pbyw/

 

Interview with Sea of Fog’s Jack Ventimilia, winner of California Young Playwrights Contest 2018

January 5, 2019

Playwrights Project will produce its 34th annual festival of Plays by Young Writers at The Sheryl and Harvey White Theatre in the Conrad Prebys Theatre Center at The Old Globe on January 10 – 12 & 22 – 26, 2019. The festival will feature winning scripts from its California Young Playwrights Contest for ages 18 and under.

Contest winners were selected from 415 plays submitted by students from across the state. Three scripts will receive full professional productions, and two scripts will receive staged readings in this highly regarded festival of new voices.

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Sea of Fog

By Jack Ventimilia

Age 16, Studio City

Directed by George Yé

Jack wrote his play while attending Bridges Academy, where he discovered his love of drama. His interests outside of playwriting include playing the piano, attempting to make good vegan food, and singing show tunes loudly in his garage.

How did you first get involved with writing?

I first got involved in writing at the Young Actors Studio in North Hollywood. I  had written some things before, but once I started have my pieces read, the studio helped me cultivate my skill.. My teacher Andrew Shaffers actually recommended that I enter in the California Young Playwrights Contest.

How did you come up with the idea for your script?

Last spring, I took a trip out to New York and was inspired by the Cloisters Museum. The gothic architecture and religious exhibits and artwork inspired me to write a play with a similar setting. It made me ponder not only what religion gives to people, but what it can take away. It drove me to develop a character who’s been through so much isolation, and finds solace in religion, however, she becomes more polarizing because of the rules she follows.

What themes are involved in your piece?

I would say the themes at the forefront of the piece are: religion, friendship, and youth.

What is the message you hope the audience takes away with them?

I hope that the audience can walk away from the piece pondering how much being a teenager sucks. That beauty can be found in a relationship, even between two broken people. And how helpful and comforting, albeit polarizing, religious beliefs can be.

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Jack observes a rehearsal of his play.

Do you plan to continue writing?

I absolutely want to continue writing, I always feel like there’s something I can improve in my writing and that really keeps me going. Lately I have considered myself more of an actor, but I’ve found that playwriting and acting go hand in hand and really benefit each other.

What are your career goals and/or aspirations?

At this point in my life I’m not quite sure. I’m definitely going to continue playwriting and acting, and I think that it’s something that I’m going to want to pursue in college. All I know is that I really love writing and acting. It’s therapeutic, and it never bores me. If I can do that and make a living, that sounds like a great future.

What advice would you give to a peer as they embark on writing their first play?

You can’t judge it. You need to totally just allow yourself to put stream of consciousness onto the page. Let it be personal, have fun, explore- you have all the time in the world to change and judge it later. The best writing, in my opinion, is when you just let it all out on the page.

Are you currently working to develop any other plays?

Yes, I’m working on a couple. My favorite play I’m working on right now is one titled Rink Penguin. It’s about a young adult named Jay who never really grew up. He works at the roller rink as the mascot Rinky, a cool and hip cartoon penguin, who’s actually quite crass and sarcastic. Jay doesn’t really connect with the other workers, even though he’s worked there the longest. Through the course of my play, the line between Jay and roller rink mascot Rinky fades.

The topic of religion is very personal, what challenges are presented in exploring such sensitive subject matter?

The challenge I faced was how to create this character who’s devoutly religious and a little antagonistic. However, I want it to be clear she’s not antagonistic because of religion; it’s helped her quite a bit. This is something I struggled with making clear.

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Actors Daniel Woods and Jalani Blankenship rehearse Sea of Fog.

Can you share with us any break-throughs or special moments you experienced during the revision process?

The biggest inspiration or break through for me was putting these characters in a place that inspires me.

Sea of Fog can be seen during Program B of Plays by Young Writers, on Friday Jan. 25th at 7:30 PM and Saturday Jan. 26th at 2:00 PM.

For more information, please contact Playwrights Project at (858) 384-2970 or write@playwrightsproject.org.

Visit http://www.playwrightsproject.org/productions/pbyw/. 

*Photo courtesy of Geri Goodale of Reminisce Photography.

Interview with Emma Kuli, winner of California Young Playwrights Contest 2018

December 28, 2018

Playwrights Project will produce its 34th annual festival of Plays by Young Writers at The Sheryl and Harvey White Theatre in the Conrad Prebys Theatre Center at The Old Globe on January 10 – 12 & 22 – 26, 2019. The festival will feature winning scripts from its California Young Playwrights Contest for ages 18 and under.

Contest winners were selected from 415 plays submitted by students from across the state. Three scripts will receive full professional productions, and two scripts will receive staged readings in this highly regarded festival of new voices.

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A Mother’s Mother

By Emma Kuli

Age 18, Villa Park

Directed by George Yé

Emma wrote her play while attending Orange County School of the Arts. While at OSCA, Emma took part in the Creative Writing Conservatory and wrote for the 24 Hour ScareFest and the school’s annual PlayFest. She’s volunteered at Casa Teresa and was involved with the Villa Park chapter of the National Charity League.  Emma is now a freshman at Santa Clara University.

How did you first get involved with writing?

When I was in third grade, I finished a worksheet about the phases of the moon early and I flipped it over and wrote my first poem (about the moon, of course) on the back.  Later that week, I brought my poem on a trip to my Aunt Dorothy’s house in San Diego. She read it and she smiled so big and told me I was a poet.  She had the poem framed as a surprise for me.  It still hangs over my bed, reminding me that Aunt Dorothy and the moon are smiling down on me.

You mentioned that your play was inspired by volunteer work you completed with Casa Teresa, an organization that provides support to single mothers. Can you share how your real-life experiences inspired your play? 

Volunteering at Casa Teresa I was able to watch the love blossom between so many different moms and their babies.  The moms I was lucky enough to work with were connected by the challenges they’d pushed themselves to overcome with raw motherly love.

How did you come up with the idea for your script?

The beautiful baby in my arms smiled up at me, laughed a jingle bell baby laugh, and spit up all over me. I thought of my script when I was covered in spit up. I was, in this moment, reminded how tricky it is to care for a baby.  Laughing, I wiped the spit up off my face and chest and arms and I looked around. I saw strong women who’s lives were changed (for the better, but changed nonetheless) by tiny new members to their family.  I thought about all the changes you go through becoming a mother and I wanted to do something with that.

What themes are involved in your piece?

At its core, A Mother’s Mother is the moment when a daughter becomes a mother.  As her role in the world shifts, so do the politics of her relationship with her mother.

What is the message you hope the audience takes away with them?

I hope the audience is inspired by Billie’s story.  My main message is that the relationship between a mother and daughter is special.  My play shows how relationships are as messy and dynamic as we are. I hope the audience walks out of the theater thinking about the relationships in their lives on new terms.

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Emma and her family at Lights Up!

Do you plan to continue writing?

I’m always scribbling ideas on napkins and wildly typing out my midnight burst of inspiration before bed.  If I’m in the shower or waiting for an Uber or folding laundry I’m probably thinking up a story. I don’t think I could stop writing if I tried.

What are your career goals and/or aspirations?

I hope to become a teacher.  I really enjoy working with kids. I would love knowing I was inspiring the next generation like my teachers inspired me, and I could write in my vacation time!

What advice would you give to a peer as they embark on writing their first play?

The best writing inspiration is right outside your door.  Listen to people talk. Listen to what they say. Listen to what they don’t say.

Are you currently working to develop any other plays?

Yes! I’m always running with ideas and seeing if they go anywhere.  I’ve been playing around with a few ideas recently!  (Picnics, Manipulation, Bread)

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Emma with her dramaturg, Playwrights Project Founder Deborah Salzer (left), and Executive Director Cecelia Kouma.

One of the major areas of revision was to change the setting of your play. What did you discover about your characters by revealing them in a new setting?

In setting Willa and Billie in a nursery, I was able to see how the two would build a home for the new members of the family. Whereas the previous setting, a restaurant, forced the characters to confront the public realm. Setting the soon to be mom and grandmother in the place where the new babies will grow up forced them to face their future, their new definition of home.

The dynamic between Billie and Willa is authentic and engaging, do you have any tips for writing realistic dialogue?

In any revision I make to my plays, I always make large cuts to dialogue.  The majority of real conversation lies beneath what is actually said.

Please share with a few insights into your play’s development process — how do you approach edits? What have you learned so far?

I always read my play out loud when I’m making edits. When I hear the words read out loud, I can better picture how they might sound like something I would actually hear while walking down the street.

A Mother’s Mother can be seen during Program B of Plays by Young Writers, on Friday Jan. 25th at 7:30 PM and Saturday Jan. 26th at 2:00 PM.

For more information, please contact Playwrights Project at (858) 384-2970 or write@playwrightsproject.org.

Visit http://www.playwrightsproject.org/productions/pbyw/. 

*Photo courtesy of Geri Goodale of Reminisce Photography.

 

Interview with Naomi Melville, winner of California Young Playwrights Contest 2018

December 21, 2018

Playwrights Project will produce its 34th annual festival of Plays by Young Writers at The Sheryl and Harvey White Theatre in the Conrad Prebys Theatre Center at The Old Globe on January 10 – 12 & 22 – 26, 2019. The festival will feature winning scripts from its California Young Playwrights Contest for ages 18 and under.

Contest winners were selected from 415 plays submitted by students from across the state. Three scripts will receive full professional productions, and two scripts will receive staged readings in this highly regarded festival of new voices.

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Trash! The Musical

By Naomi Melville

Age 18, Sabre Springs

Directed by Ruff Yeager

Naomi wrote her script while attending Mt. Carmel High School, where she is Vice President of the MCHS Drama Club and Co-Captain of MCHS’s Improv Team. Naomi is also a Troupe President of the International Thespian Society and has served on La Jolla Playhouse’s Teen Council. Naomi was a finalist in the 2016 California Young Playwrights Contest. Trash the Musical is the first fully-realized musical production that Playwrights Project has produced in the 34 year history of Plays by Young Writers.

How did you first get involved with writing?

I was writing plays before I knew what playwriting was. When I was a kid, my cousins and I would put on very riveting skits for our families. Most of these early plays involved sleeping, which makes sense considering how important the subject was to me at the time. It wasn’t until middle school that I wrote an actual script, which was performed at my high school’s One Acts Festival the next year, and was a finalist in the 2016 California Young Playwrights Contest.

How did you come up with the idea for your script?

It is a joke that went too far. I told a friend I was going to write a play called Trash: The Musical! (An Autobiography) and then I accidentally did it. I started out by writing some music that introduces the characters, but when I began making cuts and editing out characters and songs, I realized, “Oh no, I’m taking this seriously!”

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Naomi and her parents Tricia and Neil at Lights Up! Playwrights Take the Stage.

What themes are involved in your piece?

Trash! The Musical mainly focuses on finding power through self-acceptance, as well as breaking cycles and taking control of one’s own life.

What is the message you hope the audience takes away with them?

You have the power to create your own destiny, so don’t give up on yourself!  You are good enough!

Do you plan to continue writing?

Yes! As I’m applying to colleges, I’m looking for schools that offer courses in playwriting. Ideally I’d  first get a BA in Theatre and go on to get and MFA in Playwriting, but who can say for sure what the future holds?

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Festival Artistic Director Ruff Yeager and Naomi at auditions for Trash! The Musical.

What are your career goals and/or aspirations?  

I want to make a career in theatre. In addition to writing, I really enjoy acting, so I’d like to do a combination of the two. I’m also interested in trying my hand at screenwriting and acting for film, so I suppose that is also an option!

Are you currently working to develop any other plays?

At any given moment I’ve got several ideas for projects occupying my mind. I’m currently working on another musical (which has yet to be titled) about love, art, and loving art.

What advice would you give to a peer as they embark on writing their first play?

Even if you think your idea is stupid, write it. I wrote a play about trash. Your idea is not stupid. In fact, I find it’s best not to take yourself too seriously as you are writing early drafts to avoid over criticizing or sounding stiff. In other words, it should be fun!

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Naomi shares her vision with designers and directors at a production meeting.

What role have musicals played in your life? Can you recall the first musical you saw, and what are some of our favorites?  

Musicals are a part of my life that have always just kind have been there in the background. I actually can’t recall the first live musical I saw, but I do remember watching a VHS of Cats countless times as kid. I had no idea what was going on.  Some of my favorite musicals today are Matilda, Dear Evan Hansen, and, just like every other theatre kid, Hamilton.

Can you describe to us your process for composing music, as well as the role your Composition Mentor Thomas Hodges plays in the process?

The process really depends on each individual song. Usually I’ll come up with chords and melody at the same time, but sometimes I’ll have an idea for a melody and then write chords around it. More often than not I have an idea of what I want the lyrics to be while I am writing the music, but there a couple songs that didn’t have lyrics until I finished the rough draft of the play.

I’m not a very experienced musician, so Thomas Hodges was able to help me a lot. First of all, I didn’t have clear ranges for the characters, so he helped determine the ranges and adjusted the keys of songs accordingly. He also helped me figure out how to use Finale, which is the program I used to create the sheet music, and he cleaned up the music.

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Naomi attends rehearsal to talk about the script with Trash! director Ruff Yeager and an actor.

You’ve written several other plays, what differences or similarities have you found between the process of writing a musical and writing plays?

Both begin with an idea, and an indeterminate amount of time spent turning it over and sort of letting it stew in my head. When I feel like I have clear enough characters and some solid plot points to base things around, I start writing. The difference with writing Trash! The Musical is that I didn’t even touch the script until I had written most of the songs. I then wrote an outline with major plot points and where the songs should go, and as I wrote the script there were moments where I realized some songs and characters didn’t really have a place in the story, and there were also places where I felt I should add numbers.

Trash! The Musical can be seen during Program A of Plays by Young Writers, on  Saturday Jan. 26th at 7:30 PM.

For more information, please contact Playwrights Project at (858) 384-2970 or write@playwrightsproject.org.

Visit http://www.playwrightsproject.org/productions/pbyw/

*Photo courtesy of Geri Goodale of Reminisce Photography.

Interview with Scenic & Prop Designer Mike Buckley

February 20, 2018

Playwrights Project produced its 33rd annual festival of Plays by Young Writers at The Sheryl and Harvey White Theatre in the Conrad Prebys Theatre Center at The Old Globe on January 20 – January 27, 2018. The festival featured winning scripts from its California Young Playwrights Contest for ages 18 and under.

Contest winners were selected from 432 plays submitted by students from across the state. Four scripts received full professional productions, and two scripts received staged readings in this highly regarded festival of new voices.

Mike Buckley teaches Theatrical Design and Scriptwriting at Southwestern College. He designs at San Diego Repertory Theatre, San Diego Musical Theatre, and Lamb’s Players Theatre. Mike has designed more than 200 productions! His designs have won four Patté Awards and two San Diego Theatre Critics Circle Awards. Mike is the scenic and prop designer for all four productions in the Plays by Young Writers Festival.

 

What’s your vision for this year’s plays, and what themes connect the various plays?

My vision for this year’s plays is to serve the writers. As a writer myself, I want to always make sure that the visuals serve the scripts and not draw attention to themselves.

The theme that I think connects each of the scripts is “growing up”, which is understandable considering that each of the playwrights are in the process of growing up and becoming young adults. In Some-Body the characters are learning about death and discovering how mortality affects their individual journeys. In Fire Hazard the characters are learning about how their preconceptions of people who are different need to be probed and challenged. In Idiot, I’m Great the characters are navigating the treacherous waters of romance and the awkward teenage phase of life. In Sina and the Eel the characters are discovering their inner strengths and the tough choices that accompany leadership. It all boils down to the wonderful, but often painful process of becoming an adult.

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Actors tearing apart Mike’s prop books in Idiot, I’m Great

How was it beneficial to design both the sets and the props for the festival? How was this experience different from a more traditional experience where there are separate designers for each area?

Designing both the sets and the props for this production was a plus because there was such a crossover between the two. Are the stools that get moved around the stage set pieces or props? They’re both, really, and so it made sense for me to design both. Even as I reconcile my receipts, it’s difficult to divide them into two budget categories. I’ve designed both for many professional productions, so it was nothing new to me, but it is always easier when I can design just the set and delegate a problematic item to the prop designer!

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Sina and the Eel uses flags made of Chinese silk to symbolize the ocean and sky

The Sheryl and Harvey White Theatre is a theater in the round with audience members on all four sides of the stage. What challenges does this present for you as a scenic designer?

I cut my teeth as a young professional designer in the old Lambs Players arena theatre in National City (which was recently razed – sniff!), so I’m quite comfortable designing in the round, but it is a tricky skill to master. In the round, you can’t block anyone’s view of the stage, or even make them THINK that they can’t see everything. So designing in the round requires that you make a visual statement both above and below the set. Your floor has to be really interesting and it’s always a good idea to have overhead elements (although it drives Lighting Designers crazy!). The floor for this production was challenging, in that it needed to be so versatile. It needed to suggest tropical sand for Sina and the Eel, dirt or concrete for Some-Body, utilitarian high school linoleum for Fire Hazard, and multiple locales for Idiot, I’m Great. I chose a neutral texture with a caramel base color and fuchsia and turquoise spattering to react to color changes in the lighting. If I were designing for just one of these scripts, I would’ve made completely different choices, but this floor needed to be a jack of all trades to serve them all.

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Mike shares his design for the stage floor at a production meeting

What do you hope the young playwrights will learn from this opportunity to see their play produced?

As I tell my scriptwriting students, there’s simply NOTHING like the rush you get when something that was just an idea in your head actually materializes onstage! It’s such a thrill and I sort of envy each of these playwrights as they get to experience it for the first time! If nothing else, I hope it instills in each of them the confidence of knowing that they each have a powerful personal story that only they can tell and that the world is waiting to hear. I also hope that it plants a seed in the young audience members’ minds that maybe they could try their hand at telling THEIR stories.

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Sina and the Eel by Kiegan Lee features an amazing coconut tree of Mike’s design

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Mike shares details about his designs to (from left) playwright Savannah Spatafora, Festival Artistic Director Ruff Yeager, and Program B Director George Ye.

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Mike’s multi-purpose scenic design in Some-Body by Tan’yeasia Brewster

Interview with Costume Designer Jordyn Smiley

February 20, 2018

Playwrights Project produced its 33rd annual festival of Plays by Young Writers at The Sheryl and Harvey White Theatre in the Conrad Prebys Theatre Center at The Old Globe on January 20 – January 27, 2018. The festival featured winning scripts from its California Young Playwrights Contest for ages 18 and under.

Contest winners were selected from 432 plays submitted by students from across the state. Four scripts received full professional productions, and two scripts received staged readings in this highly regarded festival of new voices.

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Jordyn Smiley teaches Costuming and Makeup at Mesa College and Mira Costa College. She has built costumes for The Old Globe, McCarter Theatre, Two River Theatre, and Disney Imagineering. This is her second year designing costumers for the Plays by Young Writers Festival.

What was your vision for the plays this year?

Since each of the plays are so different, it’s hard to come up with a singular vision for all of them.  My main goal as the costume designer was to help the audience understand the characters, their struggles and conflicts, and hopefully see them as someone they can relate to.  I stay true to the playwright’s original vision while adding levels of depth to the story through the characters’ appearances.  For example, in Fire Hazard, it was very important to me that the two characters look like realistic high schoolers, but be vastly visually different.  I wanted to show the disparity between them, and how they’ve been treated by society, their peers and their family has effected their attitude, which gets reflected in their costumes.  What someone looks like when they are trying to show that they have it all together, versus someone who has been burned by the system so many times that he is over trying to impress.

When designing Sina and the Eel, however, I wanted to keep the fantasy / folklore feeling, and not have the costumes be too grounded in reality.  I pulled elements from different Polynesian cultures, used a mix of colors and prints, and found an elements of each character to focus on.  For example, at the end we find out that Sina may become the Goddess of the Moon because of her beauty, so there are certain hints to that in her costume, and her dress is fitted with a flowy skirt to emphasize her innocence.  Kahia on the other hand is a stronger, more warrior-like woman, who is ready to fight for her people.  I chose to put her in a sarong with a fitted halter tank to show that she has deep tribal roots, and manages to dress in clothes that would be easy for her to move in.

What are some images that come to mind when you’re conceptualizing the costumes for this year’s plays?

I guess for Sina and the Eel, it was Maori tattoos, bark cloth dress, and Hula Ki’i puppets.  For Some-Body, I have this one picture I found in the very beginning of the process that really struck me.  It’s a shot of three kids on bikes, 2 boys and a girl.  They are standing next to each other on their bikes and they have their arms around each other’s shoulders.  To me, that image portrayed such strong friendship and a carefree innocence of youth, that I wanted to transfer to my costumes for those characters.  By using bring colors and graphic prints, I think I was able to do this successfully.  The kids in the play encounter something very serious, but it’s how they let their imagination transform the possibilities of a situation that reminds us that they are only kids.

Some-Body photo by Ken Jacques-13_SMALL

Cast of Some-Body in Jordyn’s costume designs

 

What questions did you ask the characters as you started to visualize them?

I always start with the basics, like how old are they, what is their personality, what do they like / dislike, where are they from, what season is it, where does the play take place, etc.  Then I move onto more detailed questions, like what is important to them, what do they want, how do they feel about life, do they have a lot of friends, how much time did they spend putting together their outfit?  What do they want others to know (or not know) about them?  Is there anything about the character that gets revealed later on during the play that I can hint at?  Is there another hidden layer to this person that I can show?

What do you hope the young playwrights will learn from this experience?

I hope the young playwrights learn about what it means to bring a play to life, and what a rewarding experience it can be to collaborate with a team of actors, directors, designers, stage managers and crew!  There is so much that goes into the process, and if you open yourself up to the creative experience, and explore possibilities, the result can be amazing!  Mostly I hope that the playwrights are happy with how we’ve presented their work, and enjoyed their experience so much that they are inspired to continue writing plays!

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Director George Ye, Fire Hazard Playwright Cassandra, and Costume Designer Jordyn Smiley

 

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Jordyn sharing her vision to Playwright Savannah Spatafora at a production meeting