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

January 27, 2018

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.

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

January 27, 2018

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.

Interview with Savannah Spatafora, writer of “Idiot, I’m Great” for Plays by Young Writers 2018

January 19, 2018

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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Savannah is from New York City and is now a senior at John Burroughs High School in Burbank, California where she has lived for the last 7 years. She was a semi-finalist at the Blank Theater’s Young Playwright’s Festival and won the Young Arts Foundation Competition in the Writing/Plays or Scripts category. She would like to thank her cat, Momo, for always sleeping on her computer keyboard while she was trying to write this play. She plans to continue writing forever and keep being awesome.

Idiot, I’m Great

By Savannah Spatafora

Age 16, Burbank

Directed by George Yé

How did you first get involved with writing?

I’ve been writing for as long as I can remember but really got serious about it around six years ago. I started at an acting studio and began to realize that meaningful scenes for young people are few and far between, so I decided to write some of my own.  Later, our studio started a writing lab so I slowly began to write monologues and then eventually scenes and plays.

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

I came up with this idea because I think we all, as a society, have expectations of how things should be, whether that’s relationships or even just life in general. So in this play I was really trying to explore what happens when you realize that not everything can be so controlled and precise.

What themes are involved in your piece?

I think the main thing really is the sort of perception of how someone imagined their life would turn out and also just the kind of confrontation young teens have with their own sense of meaning and purpose. Also boys are weird.

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Savannah laughs while discussing her play with director George Ye (left) and Scenic and Properties Designer Mike Buckley (right).

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

Just that you really can’t make someone the way you want them to be. You have to just be okay with who they are. Also there’s nothing wrong with strong girls who know what they want.

Do you plan to continue writing?

I absolutely do. I’ll be going to college next year and I hope to study playwriting or film/television writing. It’s pretty safe to say at this point that writing is “my thing” so I think I’m going to stick with it.

What are your career goals and/or aspirations?  

I would love to be able to write for TV and Film while also writing and producing plays on the side and possibly directing too. I also would love to start a sanctuary for cows, but that’s unrelated.

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

So many people wonder how to start a play and my advice is pretty simple (and I may or may not have plagiarized it from Nike): Just do it. There’s no easy way to start a play. Just start writing and make it happen.

Are you currently working to develop any other plays?

I actually just finished the first draft of another play Brace Yourself and am starting work on a short film adaptation of another scene I wrote.

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Backstage, Savannah and actor Ramon Villa explore subtleties of Idiot, I’m Great‘s William.

 Our contest evaluators have described your writing as “original and provocative,” and your unique voice materializes strongly through your characters’ dialogue. How would you describe your journey of “finding your voice” as a playwright? If you have found inspiration in other writers or artists, how has that influenced your process?

Honestly, I’m still developing my voice as a writer and I really think it is an ever-evolving process because so many things affect how I write and it changes from day to day. I do acknowledge that I have a unique voice, though. I think a lot of that came out of me not caring about what anyone thinks except myself. Also, one of my biggest writing goals in general is to write plays where characters talk like “real people” so anyone watching the show can say, “Hey they actually talk like my friends and I do in real life”.

Idiot, I’m Great can be seen during Program B of Plays by Young Writers, on Saturday Jan. 20th at 7:30 PM, on Friday Jan. 26th at 7:30 PM, and on Saturday Jan. 27th at 2:00 PM. You may purchase tickets for Jan. 20th at 7:30 PM here, tickets for Jan. 26th at 7:30 PM here, tickets for Jan. 27th at 2:00 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.

 

Interview with Tan’yeasia Brewster, writer of Some-Body for Program A of Play by Young Writers 2018

January 16, 2018

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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Tan’yeasia with Artistic Director Ruff Yeager and Executive Director Cecelia Kouma

Tan’yeasia is a senior at Nuview Bridge Early College High School in Nuevo, California. Not a stranger to theatre, she’s performed in community theatre shows and is one of the leaders of her high school’s thespian troupe, 8117. After many years on the stage she is excited to be in the audience to watch her first play escape the page and come to life. Tan’yeasia plans on pursuing writing as a career and aspires to be a professional screenwriter.

Some-Body

By Tan’yeasia Brewster

Age 17, Moreno Valley

Directed by Ruff Yeager

How did you first get involved with writing?

Writing has been a part of my life for a very long time. As a child I loved to read books, and eventually I decided that I wanted to write my own. It wasn’t until 5th grade when my teacher read a short story I wrote and pulled me aside to tell me how much she enjoyed it, that I realized this was something that I truly wanted to do. I’ve been writing stories ever since.

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Tan’yeasia listens to Artistic Director Ruff Yeager and her dramaturg Tina Brown discuss elements of her script

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

I’m not really sure how Some-Body became a script. It was an incredibly slow process. As much as I would’ve appreciated to have just woke up one day with the idea in my mind, that’s not how it happened. The characters came first. Initially, Andrea wasn’t Andrea but a young girl named Drea. I floated her around many drafts with many different plots until she stuck to Some-Body.  I knew that I wanted a young character with ambition, naivety, and all the qualities some people wish they still had when they grew up. Around this time I also came up with Theo, but wasn’t entirely sure who he would be as I still didn’t have a plot. I just knew I wanted a story with a child that dealt with growth in some way. Within that, the idea of a body came into play. I wanted to have three children find a body and instead of telling the police, they play detective and come up with their own ideas about who this body could be.

What themes are involved in your piece? Your play focuses on three children who are processing their understanding of death, what fascinates you about this exploration?  

The theme for the story came right after I decided what characters I wanted to have. I wanted to write something that deals with a parallel between ambition and no ambition, young and old, alive and dead. When you’re young, you have your entire life ahead of you. You have ideas for a future, of who you want to be and what you want to do. Everyone is someone. Yet to Andrea, Marcus, and Theo this body is both no one and everyone all at once. It is Some-Body, but they’re just not sure who exactly. The body allows the children to think about all their sadness and wants. This body allows Andrea to grieve her Grandma’s death,  Theo to think about a father he never got to meet, and Marcus to realize how much he wishes his father was much more involved. I think it’s interesting to be someone at the very start of their life, coming to terms with someone who is at their end.

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A photo from rehearsal for Some-Body

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

Children’s emotions are valid. At some point in my life I have been Andrea, Theo and Marcus. I have been a child who has dealt with grief and sadness, but because I was a child my grief wasn’t validated. No matter the age, we all have pain, wants, and sadness. I hope this play makes the audience feel something. I hope it invokes some sort of emotion within them.

Do you plan to continue writing? What are your career goals and/or aspirations?  

I’m currently a senior in high school and it’s college acceptances/rejections season. I’ve decided to major in Screenwriting and am  hoping to get into film school. Regardless, I plan on writing screenplays and hope to find some success in creating stories for film.

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

Just do it. The hardest part of writing isn’t even writing. It is when you get too caught up in your own self-doubt that it becomes hard. It takes a long time to ignore the insecurities and the self-doubt and just write the story you’d want to hear/read/watch. In writing, Some-Body I wasted a lot of time deleting, rewriting, and completely scrapping ideas because I felt like they weren’t good enough. It was only when I allowed an idea to truly develop that I found some success in it. My advice is to let yourself go in the process.Focus on your story instead of the, “What if this isn’t good enough.” Because you’ll never know until you actually write it.

Are you currently working to develop any other plays?

I’m hoping to have my second play completed by January. It’s going to be another 30 minute one act, titled Placebo. I’m in the earlier stages of this play, so I’m not entirely sure what it’ll be about. So far it’s about a character who doesn’t know how to truly process emotions.

You use an intriguing theatrical devises in you play, how would you describe the style of your play? What inspired this style? Please share with us some pieces of your play’s development process.

The first scene that I wrote is the scene where Marcus, Theo, Andrea and the body begin to act out their own idea about who this body could be. This scene truly uses the suspension of disbelief, where we all know this isn’t actually happening but we pretend that it is regardless. The body isn’t really moving, but for a couple minutes it gets to. This scene kind of sums up what Some-Body is. It’s the  idea that everyone has a story– we may not know what it is exactly but we do know it’s something. I think we often make up stories for other people. In my normal life if I see a stranger driving in their car or walking on the sidewalk I like to imagine where they’re going, who they are, and what their goals are. I like that my characters are able to do the same thing.

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Tan’yeasia at a production meeting, talking about her vision for her play with Artistic Director Ruff Yeager (left) and Scenic and Properties Designer Mike Buckley (center)

Some-Body 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.

Interview with Cassandra Hsiao of Plays by Young Writers’ “Fire Hazard”

January 12, 2018

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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Fire Hazard

By Cassandra Hsiao

Age 17, Walnut

Directed by George Yé

Cassandra is a first-year at Yale University, majoring in Theater Studies and Humanities to further her passion of storytelling. She is so excited to be a part of Plays by Young Writers Festival for a second time. Her play, Supermarket of Lost, was chosen as a California Young Playwrights Contest winner and produced during Plays by Young Writers last year, and won numerous other national playwriting competitions held by Writopia Labs, The Blank Theatre, Princeton University, and YouthPLAYS.

 

How did you first get involved with writing?

I started writing stories when I was in 2nd grade. My elementary school teacher saw something in me and encouraged me to pursue it further. In addition to writing poetry, I wrote “novels” throughout elementary and middle school, stories that were an amalgamation of my favorite books and characters. In freshman year of high school, I was introduced to the wonderful world of playwriting–before that I had no idea you could make a career out of telling stories that literally come to life. Thanks to my wonderful dramaturg, Tira Palmquist, I began to find my voice as a young playwright.

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

Fire Hazard was inspired by a prompt my school gave: The Waiting Room. I wanted to write a play that took place in the waiting room of a principal’s office, involving who I believed to be two very different students accused of drastically different crimes. From there it took on a life of its own as I began to unlock the backgrounds and lives of these two teenagers.

What themes are involved in your piece?

I wanted to explore the ideas of race, class, and privilege; how those themes manifest in the day-to-day lives of students, and how they affect interaction between students. I also wanted to explore identity, and how privilege can allow identity to be manipulated to one’s own advantage. It was also important to me to show that even though these two characters may seem very different, they ultimately have things in common that allow them to connect with each other.

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

I hope the audience leaves the theater thinking about the future of these characters, and perhaps what they themselves would do if they were in these characters’ position.

Do you plan to continue writing?

100%! It’s my life’s mission to tell stories that bring hope and healing.

What are your career goals and/or aspirations 

I know I will be a storyteller of some sort, and I am excited to explore all mediums, whether it is in journalism, film, theater, or literature.

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

My inspiration often comes from reading the news–truth is indeed stranger than fiction. Also, you start to notice certain elements in news repeat themselves, highlighting some aspect of human nature. As you’re writing the play, people-watch and people-listen! This will make the play believable and compelling.

Are you currently working to develop any other plays?

I am working on two one acts and one long play!

The relationship between education and privilege is a topic explored in your play. Has your opinion on this topic shifted throughout your years of education (especially now as a college student) and if so, how has it changed over time? What is the value in creating an open dialogue among students about privilege?

There is much more discussion of privilege in college, simply because of the diversity of the student body. However, growing up in a liberal arts high school I was also privy to many of these discussions, which I think opened my eyes as a playwright into being more aware of what kind of characters I was writing, and whose stories I was telling. Being in college has only furthered my desire to include more diversity in my plays and use theater as a vehicle to further examine our society. I believe change truly does start with discussion, and I hope an open dialogue among students will prompt them to think about the privileges that they do have and what they will do with that privilege.

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Production photo from “Supermarket of Lost” by Cassandra Hsiao

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Director George Yé, Cassandra, and Costume Designer Jordyn Smiley

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Cast of “Supermarket of Lost” and Cassandra at Opening Night, 2017

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Cassandra outside of The Sheryl and Harvey White Theater at The Old Globe

Fire Hazard can be seen during Program B of Plays by Young Writers, on Saturday Jan. 20th at 7:30 PM, on Friday Jan. 26th at 7:30 PM, and on Saturday Jan. 27th at 2:00 PM. You may purchase tickets for Jan. 20th at 7:30 PM here, tickets for Jan. 26th at 7:30 PM here, tickets for Jan. 27th at 2:00 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.

Interview with Sofia Miller, winner of California Young Playwrights Contest 2017

January 9, 2018

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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Sofia is a freshman at Westview High School and a member of the Creative Writing Club. While this was her first time writing a play, Sofia has had a passion for writing throughout her life. She will continue to develop her skills by writing both plays and novels. Sofia enjoys theatre immensely– some of her favorite musicals are In the Heights and Vanities. Her other creative outlets and interests include drawing, painting, and jewelry making. She aspires to write professionally as a future career.

A Life or Death Situation

By Sofia Miller

Age 14, San Diego

Directed by George Yé

 

How did you first get involved with writing?

I’m told that when I was in preschool, I would pick up books and make up my own stories from the pictures instead of listening to my mom read them. Storytelling and writing is something that has always been a strong presence throughout my life.

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

I don’t actually remember when the idea came to me, but I’ve always been interested in “what if” stories that personify intangible thoughts or ideas. Life and death are both fairly tangible, but I wanted to explore who they would appear as and how they would interact with each other.

What themes are involved in your piece?

My play involves the physical barriers that we often let divide us and how those divisions can heal.

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

I hope the audience will take away the importance of seeing beyond differences in order to come to an understanding of one another.

Do you plan to continue writing?

I plan to continue writing for hopefully the rest of my life. I want to inspire others with my words. Writing is no longer a hobby for me. It’s something that I feel I must do, which is why I’m currently working toward completing my first novel.

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

I know that writing will be a part of my future regardless of what career I choose. It’s such a challenging profession to be in, but there are stories inside me that I need to share.

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

Write faster than you think you can. I was assigned to write one scene  every two days as homework, and that crunch time was the best thing for me. If you don’t give yourself a deadline, you’re never going to start. So set a goal and write.

Are you currently working to develop any other plays?

I have some ideas for my next play and would like to submit to Playwrights Project next year. For now, my main focus will be on writing my novel.

You wrote A Life or Death Situation during a Playwrights Project residency at Black Mountain Middle School. Can you tell us about your time in the residency, who was your teacher and overall what was the most important thing you learned about writing a play? What has been a memorable moment from your revision process, whether it be within the classroom or working with your dramaturg Thelma deCastro?

I am extremely thankful that Ms. Gapusan, my teacher, and Ms. Waddell brought the Playwrights Project to our classroom. It was such a wonderful opportunity for all of the students to get creative and have their voices heard. In writing my play, I learned to pay attention to conflict and strain between characters (or between a character, if there’s an internal struggle) to engage the audience. During the revision process with Thelma de Castro, I learned that in a good play even the smallest lines play a part toward conveying a larger message.

I am so grateful for this incredible learning experience and the opportunity to work with professionals to improve my writing.

A Life or Death Situation can be seen during Program B of Plays by Young Writers, on Friday Jan. 26th at 7:30 PM, and on Saturday Jan. 27th at 2:00 PM. You may purchase tickets for Jan. 26th at 7:30 PM here and tickets for Jan. 27th at 2:00 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.

Interview with Dramaturg and Plays by Young Writers 2017 Artistic Director, Ruff Yeager

January 25, 2017

Playwrights Project will produce its 32nd annual festival of Plays by Young Writers, sponsored by the Sheila and Jeffrey Lipinsky Family Fund, at The Sheryl and Harvey White Theatre in the Conrad Prebys Theatre Center at The Old Globe on January 19 – January 29, 2017. The festival will feature winning scripts from its California Young Playwrights Contest for ages 18 and under.

Contest winners were selected from 365 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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Ruff (Dramaturg, Pros and Cons) with Katie Taylor, playwright of Pros and Cons. 

Ruff Yeager teaches and directs at Southwestern  College and has an extensive list of directing credits, including but not limited to: She-Rantulas from Outer Space – in 3-D! (Diversionary and Off Broadway); Arrow to the Heart, The Tutor, The Waves (Vox Nova Theatre Co.); Bronze (Patte Award, Outstanding Direction, San Diego Theatre Critics Circle Award, Best New Play); (Sledgehammer Theatre); Fronteras Hechas del Dinero, Quarter Cup, Hallowed, Trevor, Prom Night, Stage Directions, A Man of His Word (Playwrights Project). Ruff is serving as the Artistic Director to the festival this year, in addition to mentoring Katie Taylor as a dramaturg for her play, Pros and Cons. 

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

A new theatre company, The Roustabouts, of which I am a founding member, is preparing for its inaugural season. Our first show Margin of Error begins rehearsals in March and opens in April. I am producing and acting in the show, so my days have been filled with preparation. I am also directing a new production of Godspell this spring at Southwestern College where I am a professor in the department of Theatre Arts.

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

This year I have the pleasure of coordinating the artistic vision for the entire festival. This administrative work is primarily about working with the very talented artists we hire, providing them with the tools to create the highest quality productions possible.

How do you define your role(s) in the Plays by Young Writers production process?

As dramaturg, I am an advocate for and a mentor to the playwright. As artistic director of the festival, I am charged with the task of insuring that the highest artistic standards are maintained.

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

Having the opportunity to see the young playwrights grow during the rewrite and rehearsal process; and to see the looks on their faces, to experience their joy on opening night: this is what keeps me coming back to this wonderful company.

Any specific story, moment, or insight you’d like to share about the writer or play you are currently working on?

Every moment in the process of creating a work of art is one to remember and relish. I’ve had a chance to watch as each play has grown with its playwright and as each director, actor, and dramaturg has taken their respective turns in shaping these plays. I enjoy being in the rehearsal room when all the creative artists are present. There is no substitute to experiencing the thrill as they craft and create in real time, polishing these gems into precious diamonds.

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

I hope they learn that writing is rewriting. I hope they learn that collaboration is key. I hope they learn about their unique voice. I hope they learn that discipline is their friend. I hope they learn that each act of creation has the potential to change the world.

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Ruff with Playwrights Project Executive Director, Cecelia Kouma

Pros and Cons can be seen during Program B of Plays by Young Writers, on Friday Jan. 27th at 7:30 PM and Saturday Jan. 28th at 2:00 PM. You may purchase tickets for Fri. Jan. 27 at 7:30 PM here, and for Sat. Jan. 28th at 2 PM here. 

For more information, please contact Playwrights Project at (858) 384-2970 or write@playwrightsproject.org. Visit http://www.playwrightsproject.org/productions/pbyw/. 

*Photos courtesy of Geri Goodale of Reminisce Photography.