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Matthew Maceda and Eric Pak, playwrights of “From Underdog to Top Rhino”

March 9, 2012

Matthew Maceda and Eric Pak, fellow students in Mrs. Blackmore’s 6th grade class at Mesa Verde Middle, would have never guessed a writing assignment would turn them into inseparable friends and winners of the California Young Playwrights Contest.   A Write On! residency taught by Playwrights Project Founder Deborah Salzer led the young boys to craft their co-written play, From Underdog to Top Rhino.  The play will be performed as a staged reading in the 27th season of Plays by Young Writers at  the San Diego Rep in April. Matthew and Eric (ages of 11 and 12), with their wild creativity and knack for humor, remind us of the magic that can evolve from putting a pen to paper.

Photo by Mel Yonzon

How did you first become involved with writing

Eric:  I first got into playwriting with my 6th grade homeroom teacher, Mrs. Blackmore. She set up classes with Mrs. Salzer. She taught us many things like picking characters, exercises, and about plot, etc. She even brought real actors to perform a scene from everyone’s play. It was both a fun and a learning experience for me. I’m pretty sure my partner and my classmates would say the same.

Matthew:  I have always been interested in writing. One of my teachers once told me “Great readers make great writers.” That quote has really gotten me thinking about what makes a good writer and how I can become a better one.

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

Eric:  Matthew and I had ideas for our own plays that we combined together.  From  that, we added new parts that we liked, and took out parts that we felt weren’t needed.

Matthew:  I wanted to write something humorous.  I wanted the play to be funny to keep people entertained. I love animals, especially ones that kick butt (Kung Fu Panda, Perry the Platypus) and thought it would be cool to incorporate one into our story. 

What themes are involved in your piece?

Eric:  The play is filled with humor and a little adventure.

Matthew:  The main character is not just trying to succeed for himself, but he is trying to make a point to his rivals: don’t treat people badly and demote them just because they vary from you.

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

Eric:  I hope the audience learns that if you’re different in any way you should never change it or be ashamed of it.  Uniqueness is always better then normal! 

Matthew:   I hope that the audience feels a happy vibe from the play. I believe when you make people laugh, they can really listen instead of being uptight. From our play, I really hope that people think, “Hey, I wonder how I treat people. Do I make fun of people?” When people think of our play, I hope that they smile.

Do you plan to continue writing?

Eric:  Yes, I will try to keep on writing.

Matthew:   Writing is something that I’ve always enjoyed. In fact, I always hope my teacher assigns writing, because it forces me to be creative. Because of Playwright’s Project, I have seen I have talent in writing and now have more confidence.

What do you want to be when you grow up?

Eric:  I would like to be a illustrator in animated movie productions, or a designer for video games.

Matthew:  I think a big possibility for me is being a zookeeper. The thought of being friends with exotic creatures really excites me. Also, I think it would be awesome to work in the entertainment business. Sound mixing songs and writing for television and movies has always interested me.

Mark your calendars for April 20-29 for Playwrights Project’s Play by Young Writers Festival (recommended for ages 11 and up).   The plays will be presented in repertory with Lifestages Reflections, a selection of plays from our playwriting program with seniors ages 55 and up (recommended for ages 15 and up).

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