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Interview with Matthew Maceda, writer of The Dumping Ground for Plays by Young Writers

December 21, 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.

Contest winners were selected from 365 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.


Photo by Geri Goodale

The Dumping Ground

By Matthew Maceda

Age 17, Rancho Peñasquitos

Directed by Wendy Maples

Matthew first won the contest back in 2011 with his play, From Underdog to Top Rhino (co-written with student Eric Pak) developed in a playwriting class at Mesa Verde Middle School with Playwright Project’s Founder Deborah Salzer. From Underdog to Top Rhino was produced as a staged reading during Plays by Young Writers, and Matthew’s subsequent winning works received staged readings again in both 2012 and 2013 with his plays The Trial of Wolf vs. Pig (Where the Three Little Pigs take their trials to the courtroom to accuse Wolf of foul play) and Pound  (Which features a pampered pup named Princess who forms unlikely friendships when she is thrown into “the big dog house” with some “ruff” company). Matthew received his first full production in 2014 with Coffee, Cream, & Closure, which tells the story of Felicia, a busy career woman who seeks the help of a medium to re-examine her relationship with her family. This year’s winning play  by Matthew, The Dumping Ground, depicts the story of Mark, a high school student whose promposal doesn’t end exactly as he planned. As he struggles with the aftermath, he learns valuable life lessons from supportive mentors.

Matthew- this year marks your 5th time winning the California Young Playwrights Contest… WOW! Congratulations! Can you tell us how you have grown as a playwright through the festival over the years?
Over the course of my time with Playwrights Project, I have learned that the best stories are not those that contain very dramatic or action-packed plots. With each play I have written, I have turned my focus more on creating stories that are more driven by character development. I have learned the importance of knowing my characters inside and out.

How did you first get involved with writing?
My 6th grade teacher had a Playwrights Project residency program in her class. The experience was so much fun! I co-wrote a short four-scene play with a friend. We decided to submit it into the contest, and the rest is history.


Photo by Mel Yonzon

Above: Matthew (left) in 2011 after winning the California Young Playwrights Contest for the first time with the play From Underdog to Top Rhino, co-written with student Eric Pak (right).

How did you come up with the idea for your script?
My play is based around real life experience. Just like my main character, I too was turned down for prom. At the same time, I knew I wanted to submit a play for the contest. I was actually really grateful that I had the opportunity to change something that was initially embarrassing into a creative process that was really enjoyable, fun, and full of laughs. Don’t worry though, someone else ended up asking me to prom, and I still ended up having a great time.

What themes are involved in your piece?
The Dumping Ground is centered around losing relationships – whether it be a breakup, a divorce, or a death of a loved one – and how people handle these tough situations.

What is the message you hope the audience takes away with them?
I’m hoping that people in the audience, no matter what age, can remember that everyone has embarrassing moments in relationships. While people might not know why some [relationships] do not work out, what truly matters is cherishing the ones that are still strong.

What are your career goals and/or aspirations?
After watching the television series, Grey’s Anatomy, in order to study the screenwriting style of Shonda Rhimes, I had the revelation that I want to pursue a career in medicine, possibly as a surgeon or physical therapist.

What advice would you give to a peer as they embark on writing their first play?
Never underestimate the value of your own life story. The best plot (and the most relatable to an audience) is probably connected to your own experiences.

Are you currently working to develop any other plays?
I have so many ideas for potential scripts! In the last term of my senior year, I’ll be developing these ideas in my school’s creative writing class.

The Dumping Ground 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 

One Comment leave one →
  1. Deborah Taylor permalink
    January 3, 2017 9:13 PM

    I’m anxious to see your play!

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