Behind the Scenes: Finding Our Way

In 2016, The U.S. Attorney’s Office Southern District of California and SAY San Diego commissioned Playwrights Project to write a play about the meth crisis as part of the “DO SOMETHING about Meth” campaign. Playwrights Project Teaching Artist (and former Plays by Young Writers alum) Mabelle Reynoso crafted the resulting play, Other People’s Kids; a 45-minute stage play created from interviews about the experiences of real life San Diegans whose lives have been impacted by meth addiction.

SD NERF 3-12-17-4942
Still from Other People’s Kids by Mabelle Reynoso

Inspired by the stories of these credible messengers and guided by the expertise of local social service organizations specializing in addiction (including A New PATH, Kearny Mesa Girls Rehabilitation Facility, Camp Barrett Juvenile Detention Facility, County of San Diego Probation Department, East Mesa Reentry Facility, McAlister Institute, Richard J. Donovan Correctional Facility, Second Chance and Outpatient Psychiatric Services of UC San Diego), Other People’s Kids depicts the real life struggles of meth addiction with a message of hope.

Writers in Playwrights Project’s Out of the Yard program at Richard J. Donovan Correctional Facility offered insights on the topics discussed in Other People’s Kids. Impacted by OPK’s message of hope, these writers wanted to enact change in their community and deter others from experimenting with drugs by writing a play about their own struggles with substance use. With the goal of conveying the many causative factors that spur drug use and decreasing stigma around addiction, the writers worked with partners and as a group to fictionalize their experiences and carefully communicate the dangers of these drugs in a play they titled Finding Our Way.

3M3A0511 - Copy
Out of the Yard writers at RJD, featuring Finding Our Way writers & contributors

Writing collaboratively is difficult for any artist, and is further complicated by juggling lived experiences with the isolating nature of correctional settings. Working together to create Finding Our Way was no small feat for these writers and PWP Executive Director Cecelia Kouma, who guided the Out of the Yard writers as they pieced together their different narratives into one cohesive play. In Finding Our Way, personal reflections explore the cycle of addiction in a kaleidoscopic view of recovery, from first time use through the spiraling journey of recovery. The play ends with a resounding call to action to support those struggling with addiction and leaves the audience with the hopeful message that with resources and support, redemption, healing and recovery are possible.

SD NERF 3-12-17-1086
Still from Finding Our Way at SDSU in 2017

Finding Our Way premiered as a staged reading in partnership with San Diego State University’s Theatre and Film Department in April 2017, acted by SDSU student actors. Feedback from patrons included:
“The fact that addiction can affect just about anybody is eye opening. Addiction is a disease, and I never thought of it that way before…… Performances like these bring awareness and are great to inform students and anyone, really.”
“This production is effective in humanizing those struggling with addiction.”
“[The play] explored the concept of accepting/embracing vulnerability, rather than seeing it as a weakness.”

IMG_8960
Photo from 2018 Meeting of the Minds Conference, L to R: RJD’s Chief of Mental Health Dr. Heather Greenwald, actor Cortez Johnson, playwright/TA Mabelle Reynoso, PWP Executive Director Cecelia Kouma, actors Rick Zazueta & Albert Park

Finding Our Way was presented at the California Dept. for Health Care Services’ Statewide Substance Use Disorder Conference in August 2018, and was the highest rated session at Mental Health of America San Diego’s Meeting of the Minds Conference in October 2018. Following these presentations, numerous universities and social service organizations across the state of California contacted Playwrights Project to inquire how they can bring Finding Our Way to their communities to spark conversation about how we as a society view those battling addiction, which brings us to present day.

Playwrights Project is committed to carrying on the spirit of the former Mo’olelo Performing Arts Company with our Mosaic program, drawing stories from our local community to present plays about topics that resonate with San Diegans. Inspired by the lived experience of those impacted by addiction and written by members of our community, this mini-tour and professional production of Finding Our Way is merely a sample of the meaningful theatrical experiences Playwrights Project aims to provide through Mosaic.

Finding Our Way was performed at San Bernardino Valley College in partnership with The County of San Bernardino’s Department of Behavioral Health on September 12th as part of their “Recovery Happens” event offerings during September 2019, which is National Recovery Month.

70640073_2601173323268736_5383479091624148992_o (1)
Finding Our Way cast and production crew with San Bernardino Department of Behavioral Health staff and SB Valley College student actors

This week, we will bring 3 performances of Finding Our Way to Richard J. Donovan Correctional Facility, where the play will be performed on three different yards. Playwrights Project has brought professional actors to RJD for dozens of cold readings since we began providing Out of the Yard in 2014, however this will be the first time these writers witness a professional production of  their own writing.

Many of these adult writers have never seen a professional theatrical production, let alone one written by their peers. For many of the writers in Out of the Yard, this is their first exposure to theatre and for some, participation in our program is their first time being held accountable to deadlines and their first time seeing a project through to completion. RJD’s Chief of Mental Health Heather Greenwald shared, “What [Playwrights Project] brings [to the writers at RJD] is the reflection of their value… And for the moments that they are all together they are not in prison, they are playwrights, they are actors, they are creators not destroyers, and… they are making something beautiful.”

Playwrights Project is proud to present Finding Our Way at Moxie Theatre on Saturday, September 21st at 7pm. Please join us to witness firsthand the hope and healing that can be found in self-expression. Tickets can be purchased online at http://www.playwrightsproject.org/productions/community/ or by calling the Playwrights Project office at (858) 384-2970.

We look forward to seeing you there!

Interview with Plays by Young Writers Alum Eliana Pipes

Eliana Pipes is a playwright, actor, and filmmaker whose script From Another House was produced in Playwrights Project’s Plays by Young Writers Festival in 2014. Her play Dream Hou$e will be presented as part of San Diego Rep’s upcoming Latinx New Play Festival.

Eliana Pipes

Congratulations on graduating from Columbia! You’re currently working towards your MFA in playwriting from Boston University. How was your first year of grad school, and what advice do you have for young writers starting grad school?

It’s what everyone will tell you when you start Grad School, but it’s universal for a reason: Really take advantage of the time to experiment.  Remember that the process is about you and your growth as an artist, and disengage from any part of the experience that isn’t serving you in that goal.  Have fun – and write to please yourself first and foremost.  For writers, Grad School is a place to take big risks, to push yourself, to be unafraid of failure.  Big risks can lead to big rewards, and as Toni Morrison said, failure is just information.  And if you’re interested in Grad School – I’d recommend looking for fully funded programs, there are more out there than you’d think (BU is one!) and I think it’s easier to take risks when you’re not feeling financial pressure.

034_pp_lu_2014
Eliana and her dramaturg Aleta Barthell exchange ideas on her script From Another House during the 2014 Plays by Young Writers Festival.

You describe your writing as “imagistic, political, and playful with a punch; interested in the intersection between capitalism and culture, and the ways that identity is constantly being negotiated.” If you are comfortable sharing, what experiences in your life helped shape and inform the themes you work with now as an adult?

As a queer woman of color, it’s not too hard to guess why I’m passionate about diversity in the theater – but I think that diversity is about much more than just throwing different types of actors on stage.  Many identity-based works treat those identities as though they are stable and unalienable, but I don’t think that’s how we really experience ourselves.

I’m interested in exploring the ways that identity is constantly being negotiated.  How is ethnic culture bought and sold?  How is womanhood tested and earned?  Who are these identity categories really for?  I know that over the course of my own life, my relationship to my ethnicity, to my gender, to my sexuality has radically changed.  I’m interested in that process of transformation. I’m interested in internalized oppression, and who profits from it.

What effect did your involvement with the Plays by Young Writers Festival have on your experience as a writer and theatre artist?

My Plays by Young Writers experience was such a gift.  I really got to see my work come to life through a stellar professional creative team, which was really valuable at that juncture in my writing career. The Old Globe is a beautiful space, and the Festival was one of the first times I got to react to my work with a generous audience of strangers, rather than a house packed with friends.  It was a wonderful launching point for me, one that I’ll always be grateful for.

IMG_9567 - Copy
Eliana and Aleta watch actors rehearse a scene of From Another House.

From Another House examines how secrets can change a family’s dynamic. I understand Dream Hou$e also delves into familial relationships. Can you give us some insight into the inspiration behind Dream Hou$e? Ultimately, what do you hope the audience will take away from the play?

Dream Hou$e came from two impulses for me: the first was thinking about my own relationship to the house my family left when our hometown started changing.  The second impulse came up as I moved more deeply into the professional world of theater.  As a writer of color in a landscape where (statistically speaking) the majority of theater subscribers are white, I felt like I was being asked to sell my culture for money – and a part of me really wanted to (because of course that’s how we measure success).  This play has been my space to grapple with the gaze my work was going to be subjected to, with the difference between claiming my own narrative and having one put on me, with the relationship between upward mobility and cultural disconnection.  And when the play takes off into the surreal, this is what I’m exploring.

One constant with my work is that I’m not writing to give answers, but to ask questions – and I hope the audience will walk away chewing on those questions too.  The play is about how the Sisters’ attachment to the house has changed, and by extension how their attachment to themselves and their cultural identity has changed.  I hope they’ll come out thinking about their own families, their own hometowns, and the way their relationship to themselves has shifted.

IMG_7826
Eliana, Aleta, and PWP Executive Director Cecelia Kouma after a reading of Eliana’s play Stand and Wait at UCSD, where Eliana was a recipient of the 2018 Gaffney Playwriting Award.

You recently returned to the California Young Playwrights Contest as a letter writer, providing script feedback to eager young playwrights across the state. How does it feel to be supporting the upcoming generation of playwrights?

Being a letter writer for the contest has been SO much fun!  I’ve been absolutely delighted with the work I’ve read – it’s been playful, imaginative, and outside-the-box.  I remember how meaningful it was for me to get feedback from the competition, and I’m so proud to be able to pay that gift forward.  More than anything, reading these scripts has made me excited to see more from this next generation of writers for the stage.

IMG_3322 - Copy
Eliana writes notes on her script while actors perform a table read of From Another House.

What advice would you give to young writers who are just beginning to explore their voices?

Write everything – follow every impulse and don’t try judge whether it makes sense, or if it’s important.  Funny enough, it’s the same as my grad school advice, write to please yourself first and foremost, and your voice will appear naturally.  Sometimes it’s hard to get a sense of what your style is from just a handful of projects, but if you keep writing then over time a set of trends will emerge in your body of work.  Follow what excites you.

I also think it’s a great idea to write down every idea: if a line or scenario pops into your head, take a second and write it down for later.  In my junior year of high school I started to carry around a notebook that was dedicated to anything but school work.  I thought of it as a net for catching all those little thoughts that I’d usually just let pass, but over time a lot of those half-baked spontaneous lines or ideas have become part of huge projects years down the line.

0046_pp_on_2014
Eliana bows with the cast of “From Another House” on Opening Night of Plays by Young Writers 2014.  (Photo by Geri Goodale)

Dream Hou$e will be performed on Friday, August 30th at 7:30pm in San Diego Rep’s Lyceum Theatre. Tickets for Dream Hou$e and the Latinx New Play Festival can be reserved through the San Diego Rep.

To learn more about Eliana Pipes, visit her website!

Interview with Shyla de Hoop, writer of “Have Hope” for Plays by Young Writers

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.

 

shyla de hoop
(Photo by Geri Goodale)

Have Hope

By Shyla de Hoop

Age 11, Rolando

Directed by George Ye

thisthatlowres-7
Production still from Shyla’s play “Have Hope” (Photo by Ken Jacques)

How did you first get involved with writing?

My teacher told us that we were going to write a play in class, and I thought it was exciting.

 

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

My cat died around the time my teacher announced that we were going to write a play.

IMG_9170.JPG
Shyla with her dramaturg Aleta Barthell (left) and Director George Ye (right)

What themes are involved in your piece?

Strong family love, and wanting someone to fill the void in your heart.

 

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

Love your family because they will not always be there.

 

Do you plan to continue writing?

Yes! I plan to keep writing in the future.

img_9167
Shyla reviewing and making edits to her play with dramaturg, Aleta

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

An actor or veterinarian. I like to act because it’s fun. I would like to be a veterinarian because I love animals and I can’t stand to see them hurting or in pain.

 

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

Make it emotional, because more people will connect to it and like it.

 

You wrote Have Hope during a Playwrights Project residency at CPMA. Can you tell us how your teaching artist and classroom teacher supported you in the play’s development?

Ms. Arnold told us to raise the stakes and make them really, really high. So I chose to make my play a matter of life and death. I did most of the writing on my own at home, where there weren’t distractions. I also like to write late at night.

040_pp_on_2019_p
Shyla and her mom on Opening Night of Plays by Young Writers (Photo by Geri Goodale)

What was it like to see your play acted out in your classroom?

It was embarrassing because my play was the first one to be read. After the reading, I wanted to go in and fix my grammar and spelling. I also wanted to fix a moment where the cats were hiding behind some trash cans.

 

Overall what was the most important thing you learned about writing a play?

Write, and don’t overthink it too much. Write what you feel, you can fix it later!

056_pp_lu_2018_p
Shyla with her Playwrights Project Teaching Artist, Aurrora Arnold

What has been a memorable moment from your revision process, whether it be within the classroom or working with your dramaturg Aleta Barthell?

The table reading with the actors was memorable because it was the first time my mom had heard it and she loved it. My whole family loved it.

postcard front pbyw fy19

Visit http://www.playwrightsproject.org/productions/pbyw/ for more information about Plays by Young Writers. 

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.

marco herrera and chris johnson
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.

img_9239
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.

img_9175
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.

017_pp_on_2019_p
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.

playwrilowres-7
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.

img_9264
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. 

Interview with George Yé, Director of Plays by Young Writers’ Program B

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.

Program B Director and Sea of Fog Dramaturg George Yé  is Chair of Drama at San Diego Mesa College, a fight choreographer, and member of AEA. Previous Plays by Young Writers productions include: Idiot I’m Great, Fire Hazard, Hackathon, The Supermarket of Lost, The Acquittal, The Tangible Tollbooth, Crown Prince Crazy, Coffee Cream, and Closure, Fairy Tale, 39-40.

img_9178
George and playwright Jack Ventimilia observe rehearsals for Sea of Fog

Tell us briefly about another theatre project (or projects) you’re working on outside of Plays by Young Writers.

Aside from working with Playwrights Project I am currently the Chair of the Dramatic Arts Program at San Diego Mesa College.  I’m working with the students on a devised theatre project exploring race, stereotypes, nationalism, and boarder issues.

 

How does your work in the festival differ from your other work?

There are more similarities actually, but I’d say that having the chance to work with professional designers mentor inspired driven young playwrights is perhaps the most unique aspect of working on the festival.

img_8721
George advises Sea of Fog actors

How do you define your roles in the Plays by Young Writers production process?

First and foremost as a mentor to the playwright. Initially, I work as a dramaturg listening to the playwright and helping them articulate clearly what it is they want to say with their play.  Once we move into production mode, I become a director.  This involves generating a vision for the play and collaborating with designers and actors all the while maintaining a space for the playwright’s voice as well.

 

What is your favorite part about being involved with Plays by Young Writers?

I love getting the chance to work with new and talented playwrights.  This inspires me.

 

george ye
George speaks to past PBYW winning playwrights to prepare and inspire them for their revision process

What do you hope the young playwrights will learn from this experience?

I hope they all enjoy the experience and are left with a positive impression about the playwrighting process.  There’s no doubt having your own play produced can be exhilarating as well as stressful.  It is my hopes that those young artists who have been selected for the Plays by Young Writers Festival continue to find inspiration through playwrighting and theatre making.

 

Can you share with us any details about your vision for the plays?

Sea of Fog challenges us to  think about the place of faith in our lives and how it can be a bridge or barrier to friendship.  Mother’s Mother examines the power of love between mothers and daughters and how change in relationships is inevitable.

 

You’ve been a director in Plays by Young Writers for many productions. In what ways does the Festival differ from year to year? How has the Festival grown?

Each year the festival continues to be produced with professionalism.  This is largely due to Executive Director Cecelia Kouma, Festival Artistic Director Ruff Yeager, the designers, and the entire Playwrights Project staff.

img_8895
The creative team consults with playwright Naomi Melville during PBYW auditions

In Sea of Fog two outsiders struggle to understand religion in a modern world. What is your approach on addressing such a personal topic?

Character. After some conversations with Jack Ventimilia I have learned that a detailed outline of each character’s background is important to play. I also feel very lucky to be working with some brave actors who dived into the rehearsal process with a delicate sensitivity to the material.

Program B of Plays by Young Writers runs Friday Jan. 25th at 7:30 PM and Saturday Jan. 26th at 2:00 PM.

For more information and to reserve tickets online, visit http://www.playwrightsproject.org/productions/pbyw/

Interview with Plays by Young Writers Costume Designer, Jordyn Smiley

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.

Costume Designer Jordyn Smiley teaches Fashion and Costume at San Diego Mesa College. She has built costumes for The Old Globe, McCarter Theatre, Two River Theater, and Disney Imagineering. Previous costume designs include Romeo, Romeo & Juliet, 2017 and 2018 Plays by Young Writers, The Jungle Book, Crimes of the Heart, Assassins, Glorious Ones, and All Shook Up.

jordyn wruffs gift
Jordyn on the Opening Night of 2018’s Plays by Young Writers Festival

What’s your vision for this year’s plays?

My vision for this year’s plays is to create characters that help tell the playwright’s stories.  I want to be true to the playwrights’ intents, and allow the costumes to accentuate their idea of who each character is.

Describe a few images that come to mind when you’re conceptualizing the costumes for this year’s plays. 

For Trash, I envisioned a junk drawer of sorts. A place where we tend to put the odds and ends in our life that we forget about.  The half-finished post-it notes, the old charging cables, an old chapstick, or a plastic toy from the dollar store.  For Sea of Fog, I found that I kept coming back to an image of a dark courtyard with a layer of mist on the ground.  None of these images are very costume-related, but to me they all conveyed a core reaction that I wanted the audience to feel when they saw the characters on stage.

concept-rusty
Jordyn’s design concept for the character of Rusty

What questions did you ask about the characters as you started to visualize them?

I started with the typical character questions such as how old they were, what season is it, where is the action taking place, etc.  Then I went further into each character and asked what do they want in the play, what kind of a life have they had until now, what type of message do they want to send, etc.  I had a lot of fun visualizing the characters for Trash.  Since most of the characters are inanimate objects, I had to think about not only what type of personality each character had but also what elements of the objects could help represent that personality.  For example, Rusty, who is a piece of rusted metal, is very bitter and doesn’t believe there is any hope in getting out of his current situation due to his past experiences. I started to visualize a costume that had sections of banged up metal plates, similar to armor in a way.  Rusty uses sarcasm and anger as his armor to protect him from what he perceives as a hopeless world.  He has been hurt in the past and has emotional battle scars, which are symbolized in the dents and dings of his “armor”.

What do you hope the young playwrights will learn from this experience?

I hope the playwrights will learn just what goes into putting together a realized production, and what a creative, collaborative process it can be.  Most of all, I hope they think that it was a rewarding experience and feel encouraged to continue to create theatre!

Come see Jordyn’s costume designs come to life during Plays by Young Writers!

postcard front pbyw fy19

For more information and to reserve tickets online, visit http://www.playwrightsproject.org/productions/pbyw/

Interview with Thomas Hodges, Composition Mentor for Trash! The Musical and former Plays by Young Writers playwright

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.

Thomas Hodges is a New York based composer from sunny San Diego. His newest musical Sonata 1962 with collaborator Patricia Loughrey was part of the 2018 New York Musical Festival and received three awards including “Outstanding Musical Arrangements and Orchestrations”.  In 2015 his music song cycle The Things We Never Say won “Outstanding Original Score” at the San Diego Fringe Festival.  The production was done by Breakthrough Workshop Theatre and a cast album is available on iTunes and Spotify.  His score for Patricia Loughrey’s Dear Harvey is available from Playscripts. Other projects of his include Dorian an adaptation of The Picture of Dorian GrayUnderground (book by John Viscardi) a new musical about street kids living in the NYC subway tunnels, and various solo albums available on iTunes and Spotify.

1797502-10206137735779585-1346902711812399009-n_orig
Photo credit: Karli Cadel

Please tell me about work in theatre outside of this festival and how your work in Plays by Young Writers differs from your other work.

I am a composer and music director working in New York City. My newest musical with playwright Patricia Loughrey, Sonata 1962, was part of the 2018 New York Musical Festival and is being workshopped now. I also play cabaret’s and auditions around the city.

Can you share with us any details about your vision for the musical?

My “vision” is just in full support of Naomi and the creative process.

110_pp_lu_2018_p
Thomas virtually congratulates this year’s winning playwrights at Lights Up! Playwrights Take the Stage

What caught your attention most when you first read the script?

I loved the music! Naomi is an excellent songwriter and the songs are catchy and clever. The characters coming alive in the way they do resonated with me as a writer and exemplified some of the frustration that I too face while writing a new story.

Can you elaborate on your role as Composition Mentor to Naomi and describe the mentorship process? 

My role was to be there for any questions Naomi had in forming the score for the Music Director and cast. There is a lot that goes into formatting a score and making the music readable. Naomi would send me songs through a notation program called Finale and I would edit the keys, format the pages, create audio files, and give suggestions in order for her to achieve the sound she had envisioned.

thmoas hodges 2
Thomas at age 17, when his play Stage Directions was produced during Plays by Young Writers

As a past winning playwright, how did your experience with PBYW shape your journey as a professional theater maker?

When my play Stage Directions was produced and I worked with Ruff on its development at the age of seventeen, it was my first time bringing other people into the creative process, which is scary and so necessary. Then to go from receiving and giving creative input into production- it was magical. I think it made me a writer for life. I’ll never forget that experience and how it shaped me.

Trash! The Musical can be seen during Program A of Plays by Young Writers, on  Saturday Jan. 26th at 7:30 PM.

For more information, please contact Playwrights Project at (858) 384-2970 or write@playwrightsproject.org.

Visit http://www.playwrightsproject.org/productions/pbyw/