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Interview with Aisling Archdeacon, winner of California Young Playwrights Contest 2017

January 27, 2018

Playwrights Project will produce its 33rd annual festival of Plays by Young Writers at The Sheryl and Harvey White Theatre in the Conrad Prebys Theatre Center at The Old Globe on January 20 – January 27, 2018. The festival will feature winning scripts from its California Young Playwrights Contest for ages 18 and under.

Contest winners were selected from 432 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.

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Alone on the Playground

By Aisling Archdeacon

Age 11, Carlsbad

Directed by Ruff Yeager

Aisling wrote her play in fifth grade at St. Patrick Catholic School in a Playwrights Project residency. Now a year older, she continues to love and pursue writing, especially fantasy. For Aisling, reading and writing stories is a way to express herself, a way to escape and to go to places where anything is possible. Winning a staged reading from Playwrights Project is her first experience with theater! In her spare time, she’s either curled up in an armchair reading a book or playing soccer with her friends.

How did you first get involved in writing?

Writing is a subject at my school for grades three and up, so I have been doing it for a while and really enjoy it. We usually do a unit, in which there is maybe ten lessons, and then at the end of that unit we do a workshop, in which we each write, revise, and edit a piece (such as an autobiographical incident, a friendly letter, a descriptive essay, etc.). I got involved in playwriting through the drama program at my school, in which we wrote a couple short scripts as activities in the years before fifth grade, when we did the Playwright’s Project residency.

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

I remember it happened the day of our second class with Mr. Steve, the Playwright’s Project mentor, and I was talking with my friends about ideas for our play, which we were supposed to have decided on by the that class. I knew I wanted it to be fiction, and about friendship, but I had yet to decide the characters. I didn’t want them to be humans, though. A friend suggested they should be things that go together, like Cookies and Milk, and Ketchup and Mustard. I liked that idea, but I wanted there to be three of them, so Rock, Paper, and Scissors were born!

What themes are involved in your piece?

My major one was friendship, of course, but some others were acceptance, kindness, perseverance, and growth. I wanted, by the end of the play, to show the characters grow and change for the better. I wanted to show them (especially Paper) growing to be more kind and accepting to one another, because I believe those changes are essential in making and becoming friends.

What is the message you hope the audience will take away with them?

I want to show them, most of all, that true friendships are always worth the challenges that come with them, and true friends accept each other for who they are, but also help each other become their best selves.

Do you plan to continue writing?

Yes! I love to write and writing is one of my favorite subjects. I enjoy crafting a piece and I love that I can write about the things I like and am interested in. I feel amazing when I find the perfect words to express something.

What do you want to be when you grow up, and why?

I often change my mind, but right now I think I’d like to be some sort of doctor- maybe a surgeon. In fourth grade I had an amazing science teacher who really inspired me to learn about the human body through many great experiments and examples. I think being a doctor is a great profession- you can help so many people every day and so many people place their loved ones’ lives in doctors hands which, though it would intimidating, would also would be very humbling.

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

I would tell them to work the play out in their head first, so that they can have a picture for the location and expressions on the characters’ faces. I find that always helps me out when I’m writing something, especially when I don’t have an idea of what to write about. It makes the actual writing of the piece go a lot quicker. If you already have a painting in your mind of what you want it to look like it shows through in your piece, and the reader or audience sees that picture too.

Are you currently working to develop any other plays?

Not a play, but my friend and I are always on the lookout for writing competitions, which we do together, helping each other out with the revisions and editing of our pieces. Right now we are writing stories for the Bluefire $1000 for 1000 Words Contest, in which your piece has to be exactly 1000 words.

Can you tell us more about your time in the residency, who was your teacher, and overall what was the most important thing you learned about writing a play?

My teacher, Mr. Steve, was a very funny teacher and a ton of fun to be around! Writing my play came so much easier thanks to his helpful and supportive tips. He came in once a week, every Wednesday afternoon, to teach us. I remember he would usually start off with a little lesson and then we’d all get out our computers to work on our plays. He taught us proper formatting, how to make our plays engage and entertain a reader, and how to make sure that your play’s conflict wasn’t solved too easily, making the play boring. This last tip in particular stuck with me. I was at the point where I was writing the climax of my play, but I was having trouble coming up with a strong ending to make my characters’ happily ever after come true. He gave me the idea of a double problem- first having a main conflict, having the solution go wrong, and then having the characters fix that problem. I’d say that was the most helpful and supportive tip he gave, along with letting yourself and your interests shine through in your play.

What has been a memorable moment from your revision process, whether it be in the classroom or working with your dramaturg Aleta Barthell?

The most memorable part of the revision process for me was probably going over my script with Mrs. Barthell, my dramaturg, after reading it aloud with a couple of actors. She had a lot of great ideas and points to make, and when I made the revisions later I really felt as though the play was more polished and went far more smoothly.

Alone on the Playground can be seen during Program A of Plays by Young Writers, on Saturday Jan. 27th at 7:30 PM. 

For more information, please contact Playwrights Project at (858) 384-2970 or write@playwrightsproject.org. Visit http://www.playwrightsproject.org/productions/pbyw/. 

*Photo courtesy of Geri Goodale of Reminisce Photography.

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