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Interview with Samantha Rafter & Minh-Son Tran, writers of A Play on Words for Plays by Young Writers 2017

December 13, 2016

Playwrights Project will produce its 32nd 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 19 – January 29, 2017. The festival will feature winning scripts from its California Young Playwrights Contest for ages 18 and under.

All submissions were evaluated blindly, and the winners were selected from 365 entries 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.

Is it better to erase your pain, or leave a permanent mark?  In A Play on Words, an unused eraser, a lined piece of math homework, a sharp pencil and a dry marker make an unexpected journey of the heart across the classroom. This thought-provoking piece will be presented as a staged reading in Program B of Plays by Young Writers. Samantha and Minh-Son wrote their play in partnership during a Playwrights Project residency lead by Teaching Artist Wendy Waddell at Black Mountain Middle School in  Ms. Gapusan’s 8th grade classroom.


A Play on Words

By Minh-Son Tran and Samantha Rafter

Ages 13 & 14, San Diego

Directed by Erika Beth Phillips

How did you first get involved with writing?

Samantha: It’s hard to say when I first got involved in writing, because as far as I can remember I’ve always liked to write.

Minh-Son: I got involved in writing when Playwrights Project came to my school [Black Mountain Middle School]. Prior to this, I had never formally written anything.

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

Minh-Son: Samantha came up with the idea by suggesting we use school supplies, from then on [we were] making it up as we went, and going with what we thought would be funny.

Samantha: It started out with one of the first assignments for our Playwrights Project residency. We only had to write one scene. My friend turned around to me and kept saying she didn’t know what to write about, so I threw random ideas at her, just to show her that you could write about anything. One of those ideas was about a piece of paper and an eraser. I didn’t really come up with much of a plot until I started working later with Minh-Son.

What themes are involved in your piece?

Samantha: Friendship, love, and regret.

Minh-Son: Betrayal, and acting on impulse.

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

Samantha: I hope they realize that you can’t erase the past; it’ll come back to haunt you.

Minh-Son: And to never trust math homework!

What was writing a play in partnership like for you? Would you say you shared the creative input equally? What do you enjoy about writing a play with another playwright?

Minh-Son: It’s been a pleasant experience, and I would say we shared the creative input equally. One great thing about writing together is bouncing ideas off of each other, and when writing a humorous play like this one, it’s a fun process with lots of jokes.

Samantha: Writing this play in partnership was really helpful. If either Minh-Son or I had written the play entirely on our own, I doubt it would have turned out this well. Having someone to bounce ideas off of and constantly having someone else’s input makes writing a play a lot easier. I would say that the creative input was and is equal between us because when we were creating the plot, we would each contribute a few of our ideas and choose the ones that worked best. The ideas that came from me and the ones that came from Minh-Son ended up being pretty equal; neither one of us had far better or worse ideas.

What do you want to be when you grow up?

Samantha: I want to be a journalist.

Minh-Son: A lizard wrangler!

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

Minh-Son: Write down what you first think of, and then come back and edit it later. Your first ideas are usually the most authentic.

Samantha: My advice is not to think about it too much. It’s important to keep an open mind when writing, and also to have fun.


Minh-Son and Samantha with their teacher, Arlene Gapusan.

A Play on Words can be seen during Program B of Plays by Young Writers, on Friday Jan. 27th at 7:30 PM and Saturday Jan. 28th at 2:00 PM. You may purchase tickets for Fri. Jan. 27 at 7:30 PM here, and for Sat. Jan. 28th at 2 PM here. 

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

*Photo courtesy of Geri Goodale of Reminisce Photography.

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