Playwrights Project will produce its 35th annual festival of Plays by Young Writers at The Joan B. Kroc Theatre on January 29 – February 1, 2020. The festival will feature winning scripts from its California Young Playwrights Contest for ages 18 and under.
Contest winners were selected from 561 plays submitted by students from across the state. Three scripts will receive full professional productions, and one script will receive a staged reading in this highly regarded festival of new voices.
Love is Blind: A Spoken Word Play
By Aiko Lozar
Age 15, Carlsbad
Directed by Ruff Yeager
How did you first get involved with writing?
My mom would always read to me when I was younger, and my dad is a writer. We would all bond over books – and every reader is a writer. As cliché as it sounds, I’ve always written. When I was younger, I would write books. I would only ever get to the 12th chapter or so until I got bored of it, but I live for literature. The author has complete control over the characters and storyline just up until someone else reads it. Then, it’s no longer theirs; each person dreams up a new world from the author’s words. Now, I write mostly poetry – I think I’ve accepted my short attention span – but writing will always be a passion of mine.
How did you come up with the idea for your script?
I was in the car one night in September 2017. I wrote down one line: “What’s black and white and red all over? Love is red.” I wrote Amber’s monologue – her ode to colors and what they symbolize – when I realized that color was too important to be taken away. I started to envision a world where color can only be achieved when someone falls in love. What if someone never fell in love? Could someone feel color?
I was so inspired by these questions that I crafted a character around color: Amber. Her name, her life, her ideals were all inspired by this common human experience. And what if she fell in love with someone dull and colorless? So was born Blake Colby (Blake – Black, Colby – Coal). I knew I didn’t want the ending to be happy, or else what would be the point of the piece? This story is a warning, a cautionary tale, of what would happen when we become too reliant on conformity and technology. If Amber lived her “happily ever after,” where would the caution be?
After originally developing the two-person script for a speech and debate competition, I developed the hour-length version to be student-produced. I was mostly interested in developing Blake as a three-dimensional character. What was he feeling during this story? Why exactly does he reject Amber? I also wanted to play with the idea of the ensemble. Ever since I became involved with theatre, I’ve been obsessed with an experimental ensemble. The sound of everyone talking and contributing to a story, building a world with their movement, draws on Greek theatre and what I hope to be the future of plays.
What themes are involved in your piece?
My piece revolves around love and technology. It tells the story of adolescence – the uncertainty of teenage years in a larger context. Something interesting I included in this piece was that the “villain” of this piece – society – has a valid argument. Eliminating love rids the world of divorce, violence and war. But at what cost? The message of the story is purposely not “black” or “white.” It is a discussion. As Blake states, “If this isn’t war, then what is?”
What is the message you hope the audience takes away with them?
Amber’s mom may seem like a supporting role, but she states the principal idea of the entire piece: “Don’t let technology mistake you for what’s real and not real.” Technology, conformity, standardized tests, new dating apps, media presence … it all contributes to our new way of living and it bleeds into the world of romance. I use Amber and Blake’s love story as an agent to discuss why technology should not be implemented into all aspects of life. Love, being a basic human emotion, allows the audience to understand and relate to the characters. I knew I didn’t want anything to be too much of a stretch, but love seemed applicable because love is everyone’s story to tell.
Additionally, I want the audience to take away that love is a human need. Love from parents, friends, a partner: It all comes at a cost. As Amber states, “Thank you for making me fall in love with you even though it’s complicated.” In this way, we need to work to allow for love for all. The title says it all: Love is Blind, and it should be allowed to be.
What are your career goals and/or aspirations?
After high school graduation, I want to major in Business or Film at a university in Los Angeles or New York. Most schools don’t offer a double-major in both film and business because both programs require a lot of time, but I know that I would want to major and minor in one or the other. My dream is to be a producer for film. I’ve toyed with the idea of editing film or editing literature; teaching; writing, etc. I’ve landed on one epiphany: I am a storyteller, and I want to tell stories. Whichever platform that may be, I am most content when I tell stories or allow stories to be told.
What advice would you give to a peer as they embark on writing their first play?
There are two ways, in my opinion, of starting a story:
1) Start with the message. Without the message, what is art? What do you want to tell the audience? This is your platform, your opportunity, to persuade the audience of a belief.
2) Start with a unique moment. As my New York Film Academy directing teacher once told me, “No two people bump into each other on an open sidewalk.” An event that sticks out to you that’s both real and special is the way to go.
Then, whichever method you choose, develop your characters. Do not look to other pieces of literature for this – look to reality. Every new iteration of a character stretches itself one more step away from reality. Now that you have your characters, what world do they live in? World-building is my favorite step, but it’s also the hardest, because everything must stay consistent – the characters should be both “changed” and “the changemakers.” After you have the world, the characters, and a unique moment, outline! The story should write itself.
One of the major areas of revision was to change the setting of your play. What did you discover about your characters by revealing them in a new setting?
I’ve discovered that this story is not one that depends on setting – it depends on characters. This story can be told any place, any time so long as there is Blake and there is Amber. The characters depend on basic human experiences – colors and love – to craft their tragedy, and this has inspired the director and dramaturg Ruff Yeager to tell it underground. If Love is Blind is produced in the future, it would be interesting to see a historical setting, or even a production set in present day.
You originally wrote and performed a ten-minute version of Love is Blind for speech and debate competitions. How have your characters evolved over these different lengths and iterations of your script?
Depth. My characters have evolved as I have, and as I have grown, so have they. They have matured and they have understood more of the world around them, but they also don’t have all or even most of the answers – like me.
As Stanislavski believes, the actor should not play at life, but be living. The characters must live in the world they’ve been given. So, depending on which world it is, the characters have changed accordingly. The most notable change has been Blake. In the original version, he had barely any lines and existed only as an agent for Amber to experience her story. In the second version, the actor playing Blake (Evan Boda) took his character to new depths. I saw his internal struggle and I witnessed his decision-making process. The other change would be Amber. Written originally as mousy and bookish, the actress playing Amber in the second version (Maddy McCarthy) was no mouse. She was strong, yet soft, and she allowed Amber’s arc to deepen onstage. I’m beyond excited to see how Playwrights Project’s professional production will contribute to my continued “getting-to-know” the characters.
You produced and directed Love is Blind at Carlsbad High School. Can you tell us more about the Student Production Club you founded at Carlsbad High School?
Student Production Club is a creative platform for students to write, direct, and produce their own theatrical and cinematic performances. It is the culmination of all of my biggest passions – film, theatre, business, and writing – and I created it to get other students as passionate as I am about those topics.
Collaborating with my peers brings me an exorbitant amount of joy. From inspiring students in the production to join theatre, pursue writing, or research film, it almost confuses me to characterize Student Production Club as a “club.” After all, some students have put in 50-100 voluntary hours after school per production – some more, some less. It is a joy to watch Student Production Club grow, and it is beyond amazing to see the impact SPC has had on the community.
Are you currently working to develop any other plays?
A lot of my recent work has been with Student Production Club. Over the course of 4 months, the club brainstormed, outlined and wrote Oneirataxia, a dystopian story about a group of friends that break out of an institution for the creative. I helped write the script and directed the production, which was produced for public performance in mid-October. We sold out two out of three performances, and you can watch Oneirataxia online at: youtu.be/wLTWRRnb2UE. Student Production Club is currently working on a feature-length film. Right now students are applying to be a part of the film’s Writing Committee, and it should be released between September-December, 2020.
In terms of performing with Carlsbad High School’s Theatre Department, I just played Shelly in Almost, Maine and I plan on teching the upcoming production of Amelie.
Spoken word is an intriguing medium that you marry beautifully with theatre. How would you describe your history with spoken word poetry, and in what ways does spoken word enhance your script?
In seventh grade, I kept a journal of poems I would write as a release mechanism. It truly was the first time I saw poetry as a creative outlet.
My brother founded a Spoken Word Poetry Club in high school. My brother is my best friend, and I couldn’t help but look up to his style and passion. Freshman year of high school, I joined my brother’s club and began performing in Shakespeare Celebrity Sonnets and open-mics in the community. Sophomore year, I became the Secretary, and now I am the Vice President. I’ve stopped regularly performing my poetry in the club just because I love other people’s voices and stories so much that I would rather spend that time listening to others perform. Instead, I post my poetry on YouTube and use spoken-word as something unique to me.
My favorite part of spoken-word is that it is storytelling in a way that can be both calming and jarring. It is performance, but it’s also literature. I wanted to use this platform to show students that poetry is not boring or hard-to-understand. Poetry can be contemporary, relatable, accessible, and like the setting- futuristic.
Love is Blind: A Spoken Word Play can be seen during Plays by Young Writers on February 1, 2020 at 7:30pm.
For more information, please contact Playwrights Project at (858) 384-2970 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Tickets can be purchased on Playwrights Project’s website.
Photos courtesy of Geri Goodale of Reminisce Photography.