Interview with Chris Johnson and Marco Herrera, writers of “Just Let Me Help”

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.

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Marco Herrera and Chris Johnson (Photo by Geri Goodale of Reminisce Photography)

Just Let Me Help

By Chris Johnson and Marco Herrera

Ages 14, Imperial Beach

Directed by Ruff Yeager

 

How did you first get involved with writing?

Chris: When I was little I always liked to make short stories, so when our theater class final came up, it was a perfect opportunity to express my creativity.

Marco: This play was actually the first time I’ve ever written a play. I’ve only ever written essays and school reports before this. I have thought up of stories but I was never as motivated to actually put work into them before because I never thought they would result in anything. When we first got our class assignment in which we would write this play, I was very passionate about this story.  I’m very proud of how everything turned out.

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

Chris: The main idea of the play was mostly created by my partner Marco. I came up with additional ideas when he was stuck.

Marco: Chris and I were brainstorming about why the characters would stay inside of a car for the whole script, and I remembered times where I’d sleep in the car when my dad took me on camping trips. Since we wanted to keep the camping idea but needed an excuse as to why they weren’t in a tent, we decided that they couldn’t afford one.

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Chris and Marco work to revise their script

What themes are involved in your piece?

Marco: Family, to be supportive of each other, and to appreciate what family does for each other.

Chris: Our play shows the important of not taking your family for granted, not letting your past affect your future, and not wasting time on small things.

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

Marco: I hope they see how much they care about each other and that hopefully some people in the audience have a similar sort of bond.

Chris: The message that I want the audience to take away is that family is family; you should cherish the moments you have with them.

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Chris and Marco were featured on KUSI’s Good Morning San Diego!

Do you plan to continue writing?

Marco: I do plan to keep writing. This has been a very fun experience and I now feel a lot more confident in my writing. I have had a few ideas on new stories that I would like to work on. I’d also like to see how well I do writing without a partner at some point.

Chris: If our play is ever popular enough I might consider talking to Marco about writing a sequel.

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

Marco: I’ve always wanted to be something in law- a District Attorney specifically. My mom works down at the Hall of Justice and when I was little I would go there with her a lot. I got to talk with her bosses a few times and they inspired me to work there.

Chris: I want to be a first responder (Firefighter or EMT) because I have always liked helping people.

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Marco and Chris on Opening Night of Plays by Young Writers (Photo by Geri Goodale of Reminisce Photography)

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

Marco: My advice would be to write a story that you are really passionate about. You have to love it, because if you love it then there should be no problem making it into something amazing, even if you don’t believe in your writing capabilities. Write as much as you want, but keep page limits in mind.

Chris: Don’t hold back your thoughts when you’re writing.

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Production still from Chris and Marco’s play, “Just Let Me Help” (Photo by Ken Jacques)

The two of you actually performed your script several times at school. Can you share what that experience was like?

Chris: It was a cool and scary experiment because the thought of messing up was always in the back of my mind. One time I skipped a big section of the play, but Marco and I were able to work past it. Afterwards the parents that watched us said that our play was one of the best.

Marco: The Car Plays performance was pretty fun. Chris and I would take our positions in the car, wait for people to get in and then perform our play. We performed our play about 7 times that night. It was pretty strange since most of the audience was either our parents or friends. It was still very fun and it let us get to know our own script better.

Can you describe a few memorable moments from your revision process, what strengths have each of you contributed?

Chris: My favorite part of the writing process was creating the jokes. After we wrote the play, the lines were engraved into our minds, so when someone would say a certain word it would remind us of a line in the play. While initially writing the play I typed the majority of the script, condensed some of the ideas and, most importantly prevented Marco from going over the 10 page limit.

Marco: The revision process was pretty fun. The feedback we got on our script was very helpful and helped to fix it up. I was usually the one that came up with new ideas on how to make the script better, and Chris usually would be the one who judged whether my idea was good or horrible and he would write the changes in a way that made sense.

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Chris and Marco chat with their dramaturg, Mabelle

You co-wrote your script during a class project at Bayfront Charter High School. What was it like writing a play with a partner?

Chris: Writing with a partner makes it easier to come up with ideas, but then we wouldn’t always agree on some of them.

Marco: Working with a partner made this a million times easier. Chris was able to take my ideas and write them out in ways that actually made sense and came up with the perfect ideas when I got stuck. He also kept the story from being a bajillion pages, telling me where to stop and what should be cut. Working with a friend on this made it really fun.

Want to see Chris and Marco’s writing for yourself? Visit http://www.playwrightsproject.org/productions/pbyw/ for more information and to reserve tickets to Plays by Young Writers. 

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