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Programs & Productions

30th Annual Plays by Young Writers Festival


  • Imagine That Creative Drama, grades 3-12
  • Write On! Playwriting, grades 4-12
  • Professional Development for Teachers

We teach playwriting and theatre in grades 3-12, during and after school throughout San Diego County. Theatre professionals use a dynamic, interactive curriculum designed to support standards in English and Theatre. Lessons can be adapted to support other content areas. Programs often culminate with professional actors performing students’ scripts. Learners at all levels enjoy success. Safe behind the mask of fiction, young people explore actions and their consequences. Empathy and compassion are fostered as students gain confidence, non-violent techniques for solving problems, essential language skills, and knowledge of theatre. Programs include:


The California Young Playwrights Contest is open to Californians under age 19. Every year young playwrights submit original scripts to the contest. Every writer who requests feedback receives an individualized script critique. Selected writers win script readings or full professional productions in Plays by Young Writers. Distinguished artists from major theatres select festival scripts and write comments to the playwrights. With support from a dramaturg, each winning writer strengthens his or her script and participates in every step of the production process.


Plays by Young Writers, our annual festival of plays by contest winners, features full professional productions at a renowned theatre in San Diego (The Old Globe, San Diego Rep’s Lyceum Theatre, and Old Town Theatre). The festival entertains viewers of all ages. The festival provides an intensive learning experience for the young writers as they work alongside experienced artists and technicians. Student matinees give hundreds of young people their first chance to “go to the theatre,” where they often meet characters grappling with conflicts much like their own, in plays praised by local critics. Nationally known dramatists whose first plays were staged in the festival include Karen Hartman, Jim Knable, Josefina López and Annie Weisman.


Playwrights Project’s community programs create new plays with groups that do not typically attend theatre. The plays are presented to these groups to reflect on shared experiences, better understand differences and to spark a love of live theatre. The program is made possible by the James Irvine Foundation. Participants can take part in several ways. No previous writing experience is required.

  • Write your own short one act play during a group workshop series led by a trained teaching artist who guides the process. At the end of the program, see your play performed as a reading by professional actors.
  • In one-on-one story collections, a playwright creates a short script (8-10 minutes) based on interviews with the community member. Professional actors perform the plays as staged readings.
  • Attend performances of plays created in the program, and take part in an interactive discussion with the writers, actors and audience.
  • View a scene online and post your comment to contribute ideas for the development of a new play. (Coming Soon)



Telling Stories: Giving Voice to Foster Youth creates theatre from the life experiences of current and former youth, care providers, mentors, and those involved in various aspects of foster care. The program garnered its name from former foster youth who told us that when they inform people about their experiences, the response is often, “That’s not true. You’re telling stories.” Telling Stories participants examine the challenges they’ve faced, celebrate the personal strength that has helped them persevere, and communicate their stories to encourage community involvement in improving the child welfare system.


Border Lines/Líneas de la Frontera creates fictional plays based on real life experiences along the U.S.- Mexico border to break down barriers, demystify common stereotypes, honor cultural traditions, celebrate the joy of living, inspire hope, and build sensitivity to the challenges faced by immigrants struggling to adapt to a different culture and language.


About Face engages service men and women and their families in creating theatre about their military experiences. By fictionalizing specific moments from their lives, we gain a deeper understand of the meaning of war, freedom, loyalty, duty and honor. The program helps nonmilitary to gain a better understanding of the bravery, sacrifices, challenges, and life-affirming discoveries specific to service in the armed forces, and helps fellow military identify shared themes and recognize that they are not alone.


Out of the Yard draws stories from the lives of incarcerated adults and former offenders. Recognizing that challenging situations can lead to difficult decisions and that we all make mistakes at times, the program supports individuals in creating fictional plays that examine hardships and explore positive solutions, look forward to brighter futures, and redefine the characters beyond the labels imposed by past choices.


Lifestages creates grassroots theatre from the lives of older individuals. The program pairs seniors, with a lifetime of stories to tell, with actor/writers eager for material to dramatize. The writers interview the storytellers and then shape their wisdom and memories into dramatic vignettes, which are performed by theatre artists in senior residences and community venues. Recollections writing workshops guide groups of seniors to reflect on moments from their lives and craft their experiences into theatre; professional actors perform scripts at the end of the program. Reflections brings performances of the seniors’ writing to community sites and local schools, bringing history to life for younger generations.


Playwrights Project also aspires to support adult playwrights in the development of new plays. The following programs support this goal.

Play by Play is a dramaturgical process designed to further the development of new plays by local adult playwrights and strengthen the skills of new playwrights. The program offers playwrights the opportunity to hear their plays read by actors, engage in discussion with a select audience, and work one-on-one with a theatre expert to further develop their script. The program culminates in a community reading of the revised scripts.

WordPlay Tuesday – After a successful two-year collaboration with Playwrights Project, Diversionary Theatre is pleased to announce a new community partnership with San Diego Playwrights for WordPlay Tuesday. San Diego Playwrights is an all-volunteer network of playwrights working on joint projects to get local writers produced on San Diego stages. WordPlay Tuesday goes on hiatus during the summers, and usually returns in late Fall. Visit the Diversionary Theatre website for more information about WordPlay Tuesday.

Playwrights in Process: New Play Festival, is Cygnet Theatre’s new play festival, produced in partnership with Playwrights Project. The festival is typically three days of audience-focused workshops, readings, and post-show discussions. As part of PiP, chosen playwrights are afforded an exciting opportunity to work with a dramaturg/director in a three-step development process from selection confirmation through the festival itself. Steps one and two consist of private table readings with professional actors provided by Cygnet Theatre. After each, the playwright works with her/his mentor to further develop the play. The final step is a rehearsed, staged-reading of the final draft in front of a discerning theatre audience. Through a facilitated post-show discussion, the audiences provide feedback to help playwrights further develop their plays with the ultimate goal of helping prepare the works for future productions.


Plays by Young Writers Festival

We are pleased to announce that we will return to The Old Globe Theatre with our 30th Season of Plays by Young Writers Festival. The festival will premiere winning scripts from the statewide California Young Playwrights Contest.

Plays by Young Writers
January 22 – February 1, 2015
The Sheryl and Harvey White Stage
in the Conrad Prebys Theatre Center at The Old Globe

Tickets and more information are available at or by calling (858) 384-2970.

Playwrights in Process: New Play Festival

Festival Sponsored by Bill & Judy Garrett

As part of our Play by Play programs for adult playwrights, we have partnered with Cygnet Theatre to produce its third annual Playwrights in Process: New Play Festival. Four playwrights were selected from 163 submissions.

The festival introduces San Diego playgoers to new works and offers a series of workshops designed to introduce curious audiences to the art of new play development. Facilitated talk-balks with the playwright follows each of the readings.

More information and tickets are available through Cygnet Theatre’s Box Office.

Contact Playwrights Project

(858) 384-2970