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2011 California Young Playwrights Contest

July 8, 2011

The deadline for the 2011 California Young Playwrights Contest was June 1, 2011.  We have received a total of 333 scripts this year!!  It’s an exciting time as theatre experts cull through each and every script to select finalists to send on to our Final Judges.  Winners are notified by the end of September, and then will be publicly announced at our Lights Up! event on November 5th at the Neurosciences Institute.

In this edition of Backstage Diaries, Program Director and Producer Chelsea Whitmore shares her insights on the Contest judging process.

This is my favorite time of year at Playwrights Project–we are in the middle of reading and evaluating all of the scripts that were submitted for our California Young Playwrights Contest.  My desk is stacked full of scripts from young playwrights, and there is so much imagination, passion, and talent on each page.  It’s my job to read and evaluate each and every script.  Every time I open a new script, I am filled with excitement thinking that this may be it! There is always so much possibility with each entry.

This year we have about 15 initial readers who help me read and evaluate all of the scripts.  At the beginning of each season we talk about what we look for in a winning script.  We look for strong writing rather than polished plays. We want a script that grabs us, and we don’t want our readers to worry about whether it’s producible.  We enjoy writers who take risks.  We are looking for engaging theatre that gives the audience a sense of truth, has fresh language, and is imaginative. We want to see a writer use drama to SHOW us a story!
In August, we narrow down the scripts to the top 10-12 and send them on to a panel of theatre professionals (this year’s Judges include Martin Benson, Deborah Salzer, and Ruff Yeager).  They read and evaluate each script and send their evaluations back to me.  Then, using their comments, I interview the top contenders by telephone.  I ask them about their inspiration for the script and their aspirations as a writer.  We talk about their experience with the play development process and their availability throughout the process of preparing and professionally producing their script.
I then facilitate a discussion with the Playwrights Project staff to select the final 4 scripts that will be produced in our Plays by Young Writers festival.  By the end of September, letters providing individualized comments are sent to all writers who requested them, and I notify each of the winners by telephone.  We will publicly announce the four winners at our annual Lights Up! event on November 5th at The Neurosciences Institute.

Some interesting facts and statistics from this year’s submissions:

  • 333 total scripts received
  • 380 writers (some plays are written by two writers)
  • 241 writers are Age 14 and under
  • 139 writers are Age 15 and older
  • Submissions from 41 different schools
  • 240 scripts came from schools which had a Playwrights Project in-school playwriting residency

Fun statistics with this year’s play titles:

  • 21 scripts with Animals in the title
  • 15 scripts with Love in the title
  • 14 scripts with Sports in the title
  • 10 scripts with Adventure in the title
  • Escape appears to be one theme that has struck a chord with writers in the scripts we’ve read so far
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