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

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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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.

Interview with Emma Kuli, winner of California Young Playwrights Contest 2018

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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A Mother’s Mother

By Emma Kuli

Age 18, Villa Park

Directed by George Yé

Emma wrote her play while attending Orange County School of the Arts. While at OSCA, Emma took part in the Creative Writing Conservatory and wrote for the 24 Hour ScareFest and the school’s annual PlayFest. She’s volunteered at Casa Teresa and was involved with the Villa Park chapter of the National Charity League.  Emma is now a freshman at Santa Clara University.

How did you first get involved with writing?

When I was in third grade, I finished a worksheet about the phases of the moon early and I flipped it over and wrote my first poem (about the moon, of course) on the back.  Later that week, I brought my poem on a trip to my Aunt Dorothy’s house in San Diego. She read it and she smiled so big and told me I was a poet.  She had the poem framed as a surprise for me.  It still hangs over my bed, reminding me that Aunt Dorothy and the moon are smiling down on me.

You mentioned that your play was inspired by volunteer work you completed with Casa Teresa, an organization that provides support to single mothers. Can you share how your real-life experiences inspired your play? 

Volunteering at Casa Teresa I was able to watch the love blossom between so many different moms and their babies.  The moms I was lucky enough to work with were connected by the challenges they’d pushed themselves to overcome with raw motherly love.

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

The beautiful baby in my arms smiled up at me, laughed a jingle bell baby laugh, and spit up all over me. I thought of my script when I was covered in spit up. I was, in this moment, reminded how tricky it is to care for a baby.  Laughing, I wiped the spit up off my face and chest and arms and I looked around. I saw strong women who’s lives were changed (for the better, but changed nonetheless) by tiny new members to their family.  I thought about all the changes you go through becoming a mother and I wanted to do something with that.

What themes are involved in your piece?

At its core, A Mother’s Mother is the moment when a daughter becomes a mother.  As her role in the world shifts, so do the politics of her relationship with her mother.

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

I hope the audience is inspired by Billie’s story.  My main message is that the relationship between a mother and daughter is special.  My play shows how relationships are as messy and dynamic as we are. I hope the audience walks out of the theater thinking about the relationships in their lives on new terms.

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Emma and her family at Lights Up!

Do you plan to continue writing?

I’m always scribbling ideas on napkins and wildly typing out my midnight burst of inspiration before bed.  If I’m in the shower or waiting for an Uber or folding laundry I’m probably thinking up a story. I don’t think I could stop writing if I tried.

What are your career goals and/or aspirations?

I hope to become a teacher.  I really enjoy working with kids. I would love knowing I was inspiring the next generation like my teachers inspired me, and I could write in my vacation time!

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

The best writing inspiration is right outside your door.  Listen to people talk. Listen to what they say. Listen to what they don’t say.

Are you currently working to develop any other plays?

Yes! I’m always running with ideas and seeing if they go anywhere.  I’ve been playing around with a few ideas recently!  (Picnics, Manipulation, Bread)

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Emma with her dramaturg, Playwrights Project Founder Deborah Salzer (left), and Executive Director Cecelia Kouma.

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?

In setting Willa and Billie in a nursery, I was able to see how the two would build a home for the new members of the family. Whereas the previous setting, a restaurant, forced the characters to confront the public realm. Setting the soon to be mom and grandmother in the place where the new babies will grow up forced them to face their future, their new definition of home.

The dynamic between Billie and Willa is authentic and engaging, do you have any tips for writing realistic dialogue?

In any revision I make to my plays, I always make large cuts to dialogue.  The majority of real conversation lies beneath what is actually said.

Please share with a few insights into your play’s development process — how do you approach edits? What have you learned so far?

I always read my play out loud when I’m making edits. When I hear the words read out loud, I can better picture how they might sound like something I would actually hear while walking down the street.

A Mother’s Mother 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.

 

Interview with Naomi Melville, winner of California Young Playwrights Contest 2018

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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Trash! The Musical

By Naomi Melville

Age 18, Sabre Springs

Directed by Ruff Yeager

Naomi wrote her script while attending Mt. Carmel High School, where she is Vice President of the MCHS Drama Club and Co-Captain of MCHS’s Improv Team. Naomi is also a Troupe President of the International Thespian Society and has served on La Jolla Playhouse’s Teen Council. Naomi was a finalist in the 2016 California Young Playwrights Contest. Trash the Musical is the first fully-realized musical production that Playwrights Project has produced in the 34 year history of Plays by Young Writers.

How did you first get involved with writing?

I was writing plays before I knew what playwriting was. When I was a kid, my cousins and I would put on very riveting skits for our families. Most of these early plays involved sleeping, which makes sense considering how important the subject was to me at the time. It wasn’t until middle school that I wrote an actual script, which was performed at my high school’s One Acts Festival the next year, and was a finalist in the 2016 California Young Playwrights Contest.

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

It is a joke that went too far. I told a friend I was going to write a play called Trash: The Musical! (An Autobiography) and then I accidentally did it. I started out by writing some music that introduces the characters, but when I began making cuts and editing out characters and songs, I realized, “Oh no, I’m taking this seriously!”

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Naomi and her parents Tricia and Neil at Lights Up! Playwrights Take the Stage.

What themes are involved in your piece?

Trash! The Musical mainly focuses on finding power through self-acceptance, as well as breaking cycles and taking control of one’s own life.

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

You have the power to create your own destiny, so don’t give up on yourself!  You are good enough!

Do you plan to continue writing?

Yes! As I’m applying to colleges, I’m looking for schools that offer courses in playwriting. Ideally I’d  first get a BA in Theatre and go on to get and MFA in Playwriting, but who can say for sure what the future holds?

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Festival Artistic Director Ruff Yeager and Naomi at auditions for Trash! The Musical.

What are your career goals and/or aspirations?  

I want to make a career in theatre. In addition to writing, I really enjoy acting, so I’d like to do a combination of the two. I’m also interested in trying my hand at screenwriting and acting for film, so I suppose that is also an option!

Are you currently working to develop any other plays?

At any given moment I’ve got several ideas for projects occupying my mind. I’m currently working on another musical (which has yet to be titled) about love, art, and loving art.

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

Even if you think your idea is stupid, write it. I wrote a play about trash. Your idea is not stupid. In fact, I find it’s best not to take yourself too seriously as you are writing early drafts to avoid over criticizing or sounding stiff. In other words, it should be fun!

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Naomi shares her vision with designers and directors at a production meeting.

What role have musicals played in your life? Can you recall the first musical you saw, and what are some of our favorites?  

Musicals are a part of my life that have always just kind have been there in the background. I actually can’t recall the first live musical I saw, but I do remember watching a VHS of Cats countless times as kid. I had no idea what was going on.  Some of my favorite musicals today are Matilda, Dear Evan Hansen, and, just like every other theatre kid, Hamilton.

Can you describe to us your process for composing music, as well as the role your Composition Mentor Thomas Hodges plays in the process?

The process really depends on each individual song. Usually I’ll come up with chords and melody at the same time, but sometimes I’ll have an idea for a melody and then write chords around it. More often than not I have an idea of what I want the lyrics to be while I am writing the music, but there a couple songs that didn’t have lyrics until I finished the rough draft of the play.

I’m not a very experienced musician, so Thomas Hodges was able to help me a lot. First of all, I didn’t have clear ranges for the characters, so he helped determine the ranges and adjusted the keys of songs accordingly. He also helped me figure out how to use Finale, which is the program I used to create the sheet music, and he cleaned up the music.

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Naomi attends rehearsal to talk about the script with Trash! director Ruff Yeager and an actor.

You’ve written several other plays, what differences or similarities have you found between the process of writing a musical and writing plays?

Both begin with an idea, and an indeterminate amount of time spent turning it over and sort of letting it stew in my head. When I feel like I have clear enough characters and some solid plot points to base things around, I start writing. The difference with writing Trash! The Musical is that I didn’t even touch the script until I had written most of the songs. I then wrote an outline with major plot points and where the songs should go, and as I wrote the script there were moments where I realized some songs and characters didn’t really have a place in the story, and there were also places where I felt I should add numbers.

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/

*Photo courtesy of Geri Goodale of Reminisce Photography.

Interview with Scenic & Prop Designer Mike Buckley

Playwrights Project produced its 33rd 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 20 – January 27, 2018. The festival featured winning scripts from its California Young Playwrights Contest for ages 18 and under.

Contest winners were selected from 432 plays submitted by students from across the state. Four scripts received full professional productions, and two scripts received staged readings in this highly regarded festival of new voices.

Mike Buckley teaches Theatrical Design and Scriptwriting at Southwestern College. He designs at San Diego Repertory Theatre, San Diego Musical Theatre, and Lamb’s Players Theatre. Mike has designed more than 200 productions! His designs have won four Patté Awards and two San Diego Theatre Critics Circle Awards. Mike is the scenic and prop designer for all four productions in the Plays by Young Writers Festival.

 

What’s your vision for this year’s plays, and what themes connect the various plays?

My vision for this year’s plays is to serve the writers. As a writer myself, I want to always make sure that the visuals serve the scripts and not draw attention to themselves.

The theme that I think connects each of the scripts is “growing up”, which is understandable considering that each of the playwrights are in the process of growing up and becoming young adults. In Some-Body the characters are learning about death and discovering how mortality affects their individual journeys. In Fire Hazard the characters are learning about how their preconceptions of people who are different need to be probed and challenged. In Idiot, I’m Great the characters are navigating the treacherous waters of romance and the awkward teenage phase of life. In Sina and the Eel the characters are discovering their inner strengths and the tough choices that accompany leadership. It all boils down to the wonderful, but often painful process of becoming an adult.

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Actors tearing apart Mike’s prop books in Idiot, I’m Great

How was it beneficial to design both the sets and the props for the festival? How was this experience different from a more traditional experience where there are separate designers for each area?

Designing both the sets and the props for this production was a plus because there was such a crossover between the two. Are the stools that get moved around the stage set pieces or props? They’re both, really, and so it made sense for me to design both. Even as I reconcile my receipts, it’s difficult to divide them into two budget categories. I’ve designed both for many professional productions, so it was nothing new to me, but it is always easier when I can design just the set and delegate a problematic item to the prop designer!

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Sina and the Eel uses flags made of Chinese silk to symbolize the ocean and sky

The Sheryl and Harvey White Theatre is a theater in the round with audience members on all four sides of the stage. What challenges does this present for you as a scenic designer?

I cut my teeth as a young professional designer in the old Lambs Players arena theatre in National City (which was recently razed – sniff!), so I’m quite comfortable designing in the round, but it is a tricky skill to master. In the round, you can’t block anyone’s view of the stage, or even make them THINK that they can’t see everything. So designing in the round requires that you make a visual statement both above and below the set. Your floor has to be really interesting and it’s always a good idea to have overhead elements (although it drives Lighting Designers crazy!). The floor for this production was challenging, in that it needed to be so versatile. It needed to suggest tropical sand for Sina and the Eel, dirt or concrete for Some-Body, utilitarian high school linoleum for Fire Hazard, and multiple locales for Idiot, I’m Great. I chose a neutral texture with a caramel base color and fuchsia and turquoise spattering to react to color changes in the lighting. If I were designing for just one of these scripts, I would’ve made completely different choices, but this floor needed to be a jack of all trades to serve them all.

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Mike shares his design for the stage floor at a production meeting

What do you hope the young playwrights will learn from this opportunity to see their play produced?

As I tell my scriptwriting students, there’s simply NOTHING like the rush you get when something that was just an idea in your head actually materializes onstage! It’s such a thrill and I sort of envy each of these playwrights as they get to experience it for the first time! If nothing else, I hope it instills in each of them the confidence of knowing that they each have a powerful personal story that only they can tell and that the world is waiting to hear. I also hope that it plants a seed in the young audience members’ minds that maybe they could try their hand at telling THEIR stories.

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Sina and the Eel by Kiegan Lee features an amazing coconut tree of Mike’s design
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Mike shares details about his designs to (from left) playwright Savannah Spatafora, Festival Artistic Director Ruff Yeager, and Program B Director George Ye.
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Mike’s multi-purpose scenic design in Some-Body by Tan’yeasia Brewster

Interview with Costume Designer Jordyn Smiley

Playwrights Project produced its 33rd 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 20 – January 27, 2018. The festival featured winning scripts from its California Young Playwrights Contest for ages 18 and under.

Contest winners were selected from 432 plays submitted by students from across the state. Four scripts received full professional productions, and two scripts received staged readings in this highly regarded festival of new voices.

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Jordyn Smiley teaches Costuming and Makeup at Mesa College and Mira Costa College. She has built costumes for The Old Globe, McCarter Theatre, Two River Theatre, and Disney Imagineering. This is her second year designing costumers for the Plays by Young Writers Festival.

What was your vision for the plays this year?

Since each of the plays are so different, it’s hard to come up with a singular vision for all of them.  My main goal as the costume designer was to help the audience understand the characters, their struggles and conflicts, and hopefully see them as someone they can relate to.  I stay true to the playwright’s original vision while adding levels of depth to the story through the characters’ appearances.  For example, in Fire Hazard, it was very important to me that the two characters look like realistic high schoolers, but be vastly visually different.  I wanted to show the disparity between them, and how they’ve been treated by society, their peers and their family has effected their attitude, which gets reflected in their costumes.  What someone looks like when they are trying to show that they have it all together, versus someone who has been burned by the system so many times that he is over trying to impress.

When designing Sina and the Eel, however, I wanted to keep the fantasy / folklore feeling, and not have the costumes be too grounded in reality.  I pulled elements from different Polynesian cultures, used a mix of colors and prints, and found an elements of each character to focus on.  For example, at the end we find out that Sina may become the Goddess of the Moon because of her beauty, so there are certain hints to that in her costume, and her dress is fitted with a flowy skirt to emphasize her innocence.  Kahia on the other hand is a stronger, more warrior-like woman, who is ready to fight for her people.  I chose to put her in a sarong with a fitted halter tank to show that she has deep tribal roots, and manages to dress in clothes that would be easy for her to move in.

What are some images that come to mind when you’re conceptualizing the costumes for this year’s plays?

I guess for Sina and the Eel, it was Maori tattoos, bark cloth dress, and Hula Ki’i puppets.  For Some-Body, I have this one picture I found in the very beginning of the process that really struck me.  It’s a shot of three kids on bikes, 2 boys and a girl.  They are standing next to each other on their bikes and they have their arms around each other’s shoulders.  To me, that image portrayed such strong friendship and a carefree innocence of youth, that I wanted to transfer to my costumes for those characters.  By using bring colors and graphic prints, I think I was able to do this successfully.  The kids in the play encounter something very serious, but it’s how they let their imagination transform the possibilities of a situation that reminds us that they are only kids.

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Cast of Some-Body in Jordyn’s costume designs

 

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

I always start with the basics, like how old are they, what is their personality, what do they like / dislike, where are they from, what season is it, where does the play take place, etc.  Then I move onto more detailed questions, like what is important to them, what do they want, how do they feel about life, do they have a lot of friends, how much time did they spend putting together their outfit?  What do they want others to know (or not know) about them?  Is there anything about the character that gets revealed later on during the play that I can hint at?  Is there another hidden layer to this person that I can show?

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

I hope the young playwrights learn about what it means to bring a play to life, and what a rewarding experience it can be to collaborate with a team of actors, directors, designers, stage managers and crew!  There is so much that goes into the process, and if you open yourself up to the creative experience, and explore possibilities, the result can be amazing!  Mostly I hope that the playwrights are happy with how we’ve presented their work, and enjoyed their experience so much that they are inspired to continue writing plays!

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Director George Ye, Fire Hazard Playwright Cassandra, and Costume Designer Jordyn Smiley

 

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Jordyn sharing her vision to Playwright Savannah Spatafora at a production meeting

 

Interview with Aisling Archdeacon, winner of California Young Playwrights Contest 2017

Playwrights Project will produce its 33rd 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 20 – January 27, 2018. The festival will feature winning scripts from its California Young Playwrights Contest for ages 18 and under.

Contest winners were selected from 432 plays submitted by students from across the state. Four 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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Alone on the Playground

By Aisling Archdeacon

Age 11, Carlsbad

Directed by Ruff Yeager

Aisling wrote her play in fifth grade at St. Patrick Catholic School in a Playwrights Project residency. Now a year older, she continues to love and pursue writing, especially fantasy. For Aisling, reading and writing stories is a way to express herself, a way to escape and to go to places where anything is possible. Winning a staged reading from Playwrights Project is her first experience with theater! In her spare time, she’s either curled up in an armchair reading a book or playing soccer with her friends.

How did you first get involved in writing?

Writing is a subject at my school for grades three and up, so I have been doing it for a while and really enjoy it. We usually do a unit, in which there is maybe ten lessons, and then at the end of that unit we do a workshop, in which we each write, revise, and edit a piece (such as an autobiographical incident, a friendly letter, a descriptive essay, etc.). I got involved in playwriting through the drama program at my school, in which we wrote a couple short scripts as activities in the years before fifth grade, when we did the Playwright’s Project residency.

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

I remember it happened the day of our second class with Mr. Steve, the Playwright’s Project mentor, and I was talking with my friends about ideas for our play, which we were supposed to have decided on by the that class. I knew I wanted it to be fiction, and about friendship, but I had yet to decide the characters. I didn’t want them to be humans, though. A friend suggested they should be things that go together, like Cookies and Milk, and Ketchup and Mustard. I liked that idea, but I wanted there to be three of them, so Rock, Paper, and Scissors were born!

What themes are involved in your piece?

My major one was friendship, of course, but some others were acceptance, kindness, perseverance, and growth. I wanted, by the end of the play, to show the characters grow and change for the better. I wanted to show them (especially Paper) growing to be more kind and accepting to one another, because I believe those changes are essential in making and becoming friends.

What is the message you hope the audience will take away with them?

I want to show them, most of all, that true friendships are always worth the challenges that come with them, and true friends accept each other for who they are, but also help each other become their best selves.

Do you plan to continue writing?

Yes! I love to write and writing is one of my favorite subjects. I enjoy crafting a piece and I love that I can write about the things I like and am interested in. I feel amazing when I find the perfect words to express something.

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

I often change my mind, but right now I think I’d like to be some sort of doctor- maybe a surgeon. In fourth grade I had an amazing science teacher who really inspired me to learn about the human body through many great experiments and examples. I think being a doctor is a great profession- you can help so many people every day and so many people place their loved ones’ lives in doctors hands which, though it would intimidating, would also would be very humbling.

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

I would tell them to work the play out in their head first, so that they can have a picture for the location and expressions on the characters’ faces. I find that always helps me out when I’m writing something, especially when I don’t have an idea of what to write about. It makes the actual writing of the piece go a lot quicker. If you already have a painting in your mind of what you want it to look like it shows through in your piece, and the reader or audience sees that picture too.

Are you currently working to develop any other plays?

Not a play, but my friend and I are always on the lookout for writing competitions, which we do together, helping each other out with the revisions and editing of our pieces. Right now we are writing stories for the Bluefire $1000 for 1000 Words Contest, in which your piece has to be exactly 1000 words.

Can you tell us more about your time in the residency, who was your teacher, and overall what was the most important thing you learned about writing a play?

My teacher, Mr. Steve, was a very funny teacher and a ton of fun to be around! Writing my play came so much easier thanks to his helpful and supportive tips. He came in once a week, every Wednesday afternoon, to teach us. I remember he would usually start off with a little lesson and then we’d all get out our computers to work on our plays. He taught us proper formatting, how to make our plays engage and entertain a reader, and how to make sure that your play’s conflict wasn’t solved too easily, making the play boring. This last tip in particular stuck with me. I was at the point where I was writing the climax of my play, but I was having trouble coming up with a strong ending to make my characters’ happily ever after come true. He gave me the idea of a double problem- first having a main conflict, having the solution go wrong, and then having the characters fix that problem. I’d say that was the most helpful and supportive tip he gave, along with letting yourself and your interests shine through in your play.

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

The most memorable part of the revision process for me was probably going over my script with Mrs. Barthell, my dramaturg, after reading it aloud with a couple of actors. She had a lot of great ideas and points to make, and when I made the revisions later I really felt as though the play was more polished and went far more smoothly.

Alone on the Playground can be seen during Program A of Plays by Young Writers, on Saturday Jan. 27th 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/. 

*Photo courtesy of Geri Goodale of Reminisce Photography.

Interview with Kiegan Lee, winner of California Young Playwrights Contest 2017

Playwrights Project will produce its 33rd 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 20 – January 27, 2018. The festival will feature winning scripts from its California Young Playwrights Contest for ages 18 and under.

Contest winners were selected from 432 plays submitted by students from across the state. Four 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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Kiegan is a Freshman at the University of Southern California where she is pursuing a BFA degree in Sound Design with a minor in Cinematic Arts. She is a member of the  Spirit of Troy Drumline and travels the country performing for the Trojan Football team. Her hobbies include movie scores, water polo, astronomy, drumming, her pet axolotls, and the occasional written word or two.

Sina and the Eel

By Kiegan Lee

Age 16, Aptos

Directed by Ruff Yeager

How did you first get involved with writing?

This play was the first thing I’ve ever really written other than school essays. Then I just never stopped writing after that.

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

I was heavily inspired by the production of The River Bride by Marisela Treviño Orta at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. It’s based on Brazilian folklore about a man who can transform into a dolphin. I thought the blend of oral legend and modern themes/issues worked beautifully, and my imitation of the same effect is evident in Sina and the Eel. I started looking for folk stories that would lend themselves to an open interpretation that could form a story and the Samoan tale Mata o Le Alelo was exactly what I was looking for.

What themes are involved in your piece?

The most important theme is that you can’t wait for other people to save you– sometimes you have to step up and be your own hero.

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

I want everyone in the audience,especially the young women, to take away that they can be the heroes in their own story.

 

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Behind the scenes of tech rehearsal for Sina and the Eel

 Do you plan to continue writing?

I’m always writing, but whether or not I write another play depends on whether or not an idea jumps out at me. Recently I’ve been writing short stories and poetry.

 What are your career goals and/or aspirations?

I’m studying to be a sound designer at the University of Southern California (fight on!).My penultimate goal is to become a renowned cinematic sound designer and win an Oscar. Then I’d like to establish a scholarship foundation that encourages young women to get more involved in the technical sides of theatre and cinema. I’d love to go to law school at some point too… but for now it’s all sound effects and scores all day!

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

Read Stephen King’s On Writing. Get friends involved (as many as you trust). It’s okay to take criticism personally— get mad about it and return to your work with twice the fervor. Scrap your first drafts if you have to!

 Are you currently working to develop any other plays?

I just finished a short one act play called The Golden Hour and I’m working on a genuine full-length play called Eight-Ball Theory of Destiny. The latter might end up being a novel though- we’ll see where it goes.

I understand your play was originally written to be performed by peers from your drama class. How did that shape your original draft?

Many of the original characters in the first draft were based on people who would prospectively be cast in the first production at my high school. That definitely made me write tentatively and place words more carefully. You won’t find any of that same reservation in the revised version for the Playwrights Project. 

How would you compare the process of revising the play for your drama class to revising your play for the festival?

I barely revised my play at all for my drama class. After I scrapped the first prototype draft and started from scratch, I started working with my good friend Sydney Bowdoin, who edited the play as I wrote. Other than the few lines added and changed during the rehearsal process by the actors, the draft edited by Sydney is the one that went up on stage at Aptos High. For the Playwrights Project I had to cut entire scenes and characters to reach an appropriate length. Sydney Bowdoin’s editing was instrumental to the production of the original script. If it weren’t for her there would be no Sina and the Eel.

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Kiegan at auditions for Plays by Young Writers

Sina and the Eel can be seen during Program A of Plays by Young Writers, on Saturday Jan. 20th at 7:30 PM and Saturday Jan. 27th at 7:30 PM. You may purchase tickets for Jan. 20th at 7:30 PM here and tickets for Jan. 27th at 7:30 PM here.

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.