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Interview with Emily Midgley, winner of California Young Playwrights Contest 2015

November 11, 2015

Playwrights Project will produce its 31st annual festival of Plays by Young Writers, sponsored by the Sheila and Jeffrey Lipinsky Family Fund, at The Sheryl and Harvey White Theatre in the Conrad Prebys Theatre Center at The Old Globe on January 23 – January 31, 2015. The festival will feature winning scripts from its California Young Playwrights Contest for ages 18 and under.

Contest winners were selected from 269 plays submitted by students from across the state. Four scripts will receive full professional productions, and two scripts will receive staged readings in this highly regarded festival of new voices.

The Acquittal

By Emily Midgley

Age 16, San Diego

Directed by George Yé

The Acquittal was written by Emily Midgley, who attends The Bishop’s School in La Jolla. In Emily’s play, set in a seemingly benevolent futuristic society, protagonist Jeston discovers the hidden forces of evil that are used to ensure the blind compliance of the people. Emily will be mentored by Aleta Barthell, and her play will be directed by George Yé.

How did you first get involved with writing?

I have loved to write and tell stories ever since I can remember. In preschool, I was obsessed with making little picture books and would narrate them vocally. (They were about dragons and princesses —not dystopian societies, of course.)

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

The script was originally in the form of a short (three page) story. I wanted it to just be one scene – a really powerful one. I gathered inspiration from the classic dystopian novels (The Giver, Fahrenheit 451, 1984, etc.) and looked online for ideas. The scene that made up my short story turned out to be the climatic scene of the play. The rest of the play built itself around that one scene.

What themes are involved in your piece?

I originally intended for the theme to focus on human instincts. Then, as I began editing the play, it narrowed into an exploration of the thin line between trust and fear. I’m still finding some smaller themes (devotion, deception, etc.) that I wasn’t even thinking about when I first wrote the play.

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

I really want the audience to interpret the play on a more microlevel. Humans are prone to respecting some kind of authority and that can have dangerous consequences. Just because this authority – or popular opinion – is constantly reassuring you that its way is right doesn’t mean it actually is. It’s so easy to let the reoccurring voice become the “truth”. So the main message I want the audience to take away is: trust your own moral compass above anyone else’s.

Do you plan to continue writing?

Yes! I write novels, short stories, and some (bad) poetry on a pretty regular basis, and I plan to continue doing so. I’d never written a play before The Acquittal, and I definitely plan to explore the playwriting world more.

What do you want to be when you grow up?

I want to be a writer. I’m not sure exactly which kind yet, but I know that I really love creative writing.

The Acquittal can be seen during Program B of Plays by Young Writers, on Friday Jan. 29th 2016 at 7:30pm, and Saturday Jan. 30th at 2pm. 

For more information and reservations, please contact Playwrights Project at (858) 384-2970 or Visit 

*Photo courtesy of Geri Goodale and Reminisce Photography.

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