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Interview with Sea of Fog’s Jack Ventimilia, winner of California Young Playwrights Contest 2018

January 5, 2019

Playwrights Project will produce its 34th 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 10 – 12 & 22 – 26, 2019. The festival will feature winning scripts from its California Young Playwrights Contest for ages 18 and under.

Contest winners were selected from 415 plays submitted by students from across the state. Three scripts will receive full professional productions, and two scripts will receive staged readings in this highly regarded festival of new voices.

Jack Ventimilia.jpg

Sea of Fog

By Jack Ventimilia

Age 16, Studio City

Directed by George Yé

Jack wrote his play while attending Bridges Academy, where he discovered his love of drama. His interests outside of playwriting include playing the piano, attempting to make good vegan food, and singing show tunes loudly in his garage.

How did you first get involved with writing?

I first got involved in writing at the Young Actors Studio in North Hollywood. I  had written some things before, but once I started have my pieces read, the studio helped me cultivate my skill.. My teacher Andrew Shaffers actually recommended that I enter in the California Young Playwrights Contest.

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

Last spring, I took a trip out to New York and was inspired by the Cloisters Museum. The gothic architecture and religious exhibits and artwork inspired me to write a play with a similar setting. It made me ponder not only what religion gives to people, but what it can take away. It drove me to develop a character who’s been through so much isolation, and finds solace in religion, however, she becomes more polarizing because of the rules she follows.

What themes are involved in your piece?

I would say the themes at the forefront of the piece are: religion, friendship, and youth.

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

I hope that the audience can walk away from the piece pondering how much being a teenager sucks. That beauty can be found in a relationship, even between two broken people. And how helpful and comforting, albeit polarizing, religious beliefs can be.

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Jack observes a rehearsal of his play.

Do you plan to continue writing?

I absolutely want to continue writing, I always feel like there’s something I can improve in my writing and that really keeps me going. Lately I have considered myself more of an actor, but I’ve found that playwriting and acting go hand in hand and really benefit each other.

What are your career goals and/or aspirations?

At this point in my life I’m not quite sure. I’m definitely going to continue playwriting and acting, and I think that it’s something that I’m going to want to pursue in college. All I know is that I really love writing and acting. It’s therapeutic, and it never bores me. If I can do that and make a living, that sounds like a great future.

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

You can’t judge it. You need to totally just allow yourself to put stream of consciousness onto the page. Let it be personal, have fun, explore- you have all the time in the world to change and judge it later. The best writing, in my opinion, is when you just let it all out on the page.

Are you currently working to develop any other plays?

Yes, I’m working on a couple. My favorite play I’m working on right now is one titled Rink Penguin. It’s about a young adult named Jay who never really grew up. He works at the roller rink as the mascot Rinky, a cool and hip cartoon penguin, who’s actually quite crass and sarcastic. Jay doesn’t really connect with the other workers, even though he’s worked there the longest. Through the course of my play, the line between Jay and roller rink mascot Rinky fades.

The topic of religion is very personal, what challenges are presented in exploring such sensitive subject matter?

The challenge I faced was how to create this character who’s devoutly religious and a little antagonistic. However, I want it to be clear she’s not antagonistic because of religion; it’s helped her quite a bit. This is something I struggled with making clear.

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Actors Daniel Woods and Jalani Blankenship rehearse Sea of Fog.

Can you share with us any break-throughs or special moments you experienced during the revision process?

The biggest inspiration or break through for me was putting these characters in a place that inspires me.

Sea of Fog can be seen during Program B of Plays by Young Writers, on Friday Jan. 25th at 7:30 PM and Saturday Jan. 26th at 2:00 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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