Interview with Izzy Ster, writer of “Like Father, Like Daughter” for Plays by Young Writers

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.

Like Father, Like Daughter
By Izzy Ster
Age 16, Carmel Valley
Directed by Ruff Yeager

How did you first get involved with writing?
I have always loved writing from a young age. I started writing short stories in elementary school. Since then, I’ve been lucky enough to cross paths with very supportive English teachers, along with receiving encouragement from my family. 

How did you come up with the idea for your script?
My parents aren’t divorced, but I have close friends who have struggled with family issues similar to those described in my play. One afternoon my dad and I were getting a car wash at a nearby gas station and he went inside to buy a lottery ticket…next thing I knew I was left on the bench outside picturing this play. 

What themes are involved in your piece?
Themes involved in Like Father, Like Daughter are coming-of-age, identity, loss, compassion, and divorce. 

Izzy and her parents attended Playwrights Project’s Lights Up! Playwrights Take the Stage event where the winners of the California Young Playwrights Contest were announced on October 5th.

Your play depicts the effect that time can have on a relationship.  What was it like exploring the changes within your characters with each time jump?
Really challenging, but a lot of fun. I had to think about how the emotional responses, speaking, humor, and perceptions of each character would shift throughout the years. I really enjoyed exploring this through dialogue. 

What is the message you hope the audience takes away with them?
This piece explores the “what next?” of divorced families, especially the individual relationships between the parents and child. Furthermore, I wanted to emphasize the difficulty teenagers have with finding their identity.

Izzy receives her certificate of achievement from Festival Artistic Director Ruff Yeager and Playwrights Project Executive Director Cecelia Kouma

What are your career goals and/or aspirations?  
Playwriting is my first choice as a career, but any other creative writing career path would make me really happy. I’ve also given thought to becoming an academic or a teacher. 

What advice would you give to a peer as they embark on writing their first play?
Just sit down and write. Who cares if your characters don’t have names, or if there are obvious plot points. I just focus on getting an idea out on paper, and then fine tuning it later. 

Izzy and her father tour the Joan B. Kroc Theatre

Are you currently working to develop any other plays?
I’m just finishing up editing a shorter one called The Substitute

You volunteer frequently with local organizations, including Envision Conservatory of the Humanities, Words Alive, and National Charity League. In what ways do these experiences inform your writing?
In Humanities Conservatory, we have a core of theology, philosophy, ethics, and civics. Essentially, it pushed me to continue to ask “why?”  when writing different aspects of my play. This core also challenges my worldview and encourages divergent thinking. National Charity League fosters an environment of compassion. Through National Charity League I volunteer with a variety of philanthropies, and utilized these experiences when developing my characters’ personalities. The same goes with Words Alive, which taught me the importance of giving back to others, something I hope to accomplish through my writing.   

In addition to playwriting, you write for your school’s literary magazine and newspaper. As a writer, do you find that alternating between creative writing and journalistic writing has an effect on your art-form?
I think creative writing has a bigger impact on my journalistic writing, as it tends to be less stark than the average journalist. I am lucky enough to explore all fields of writing, but all of these writing extracurricular activities help me continue to grow as a writer. 

Izzy and her dramaturg Tori Rice

Please share with a few insights into your play’s development process — how do you approach edits? What have you learned so far?
My dramaturg, Tori Rice, has been very helpful and I am grateful to have met her through Playwrights Project. Additionally, hearing the first table read of my script was really enlightening because hearing my writing being spoken aloud helped me notice things I want to change. Usually with edits, I try to get them done in one sitting so I don’t forget any ideas I had or wanted to implement. 

I also want to thank my parents for supporting me and my writing through thick and thin. 🙂 

Like Father, Like Daughter 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
Tickets can be purchased on Playwrights Project’s website.

Photos courtesy of Geri Goodale of Reminisce Photography.

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