Interview with Kiegan Lee, winner of California Young Playwrights Contest 2017

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.

Kiegan is a Freshman at the University of Southern California where she is pursuing a BFA degree in Sound Design with a minor in Cinematic Arts. She is a member of the  Spirit of Troy Drumline and travels the country performing for the Trojan Football team. Her hobbies include movie scores, water polo, astronomy, drumming, her pet axolotls, and the occasional written word or two.

Sina and the Eel

By Kiegan Lee

Age 16, Aptos

Directed by Ruff Yeager

How did you first get involved with writing?

This play was the first thing I’ve ever really written other than school essays. Then I just never stopped writing after that.

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

I was heavily inspired by the production of The River Bride by Marisela Treviño Orta at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. It’s based on Brazilian folklore about a man who can transform into a dolphin. I thought the blend of oral legend and modern themes/issues worked beautifully, and my imitation of the same effect is evident in Sina and the Eel. I started looking for folk stories that would lend themselves to an open interpretation that could form a story and the Samoan tale Mata o Le Alelo was exactly what I was looking for.

What themes are involved in your piece?

The most important theme is that you can’t wait for other people to save you– sometimes you have to step up and be your own hero.

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

I want everyone in the audience,especially the young women, to take away that they can be the heroes in their own story.


Behind the scenes of tech rehearsal for Sina and the Eel

 Do you plan to continue writing?

I’m always writing, but whether or not I write another play depends on whether or not an idea jumps out at me. Recently I’ve been writing short stories and poetry.

 What are your career goals and/or aspirations?

I’m studying to be a sound designer at the University of Southern California (fight on!).My penultimate goal is to become a renowned cinematic sound designer and win an Oscar. Then I’d like to establish a scholarship foundation that encourages young women to get more involved in the technical sides of theatre and cinema. I’d love to go to law school at some point too… but for now it’s all sound effects and scores all day!

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

Read Stephen King’s On Writing. Get friends involved (as many as you trust). It’s okay to take criticism personally— get mad about it and return to your work with twice the fervor. Scrap your first drafts if you have to!

 Are you currently working to develop any other plays?

I just finished a short one act play called The Golden Hour and I’m working on a genuine full-length play called Eight-Ball Theory of Destiny. The latter might end up being a novel though- we’ll see where it goes.

I understand your play was originally written to be performed by peers from your drama class. How did that shape your original draft?

Many of the original characters in the first draft were based on people who would prospectively be cast in the first production at my high school. That definitely made me write tentatively and place words more carefully. You won’t find any of that same reservation in the revised version for the Playwrights Project. 

How would you compare the process of revising the play for your drama class to revising your play for the festival?

I barely revised my play at all for my drama class. After I scrapped the first prototype draft and started from scratch, I started working with my good friend Sydney Bowdoin, who edited the play as I wrote. Other than the few lines added and changed during the rehearsal process by the actors, the draft edited by Sydney is the one that went up on stage at Aptos High. For the Playwrights Project I had to cut entire scenes and characters to reach an appropriate length. Sydney Bowdoin’s editing was instrumental to the production of the original script. If it weren’t for her there would be no Sina and the Eel.

Kiegan at auditions for Plays by Young Writers

Sina and the Eel can be seen during Program A of Plays by Young Writers, on Saturday Jan. 20th at 7:30 PM and Saturday Jan. 27th at 7:30 PM. You may purchase tickets for Jan. 20th at 7:30 PM here and tickets for Jan. 27th at 7:30 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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