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wordplay The Newsletter of Young Playwrights Inc

November 2009

And the Winners Are… We are pleased to announce the winners in the 2009 Young Playwrights Inc. National Playwriting Competition! These ten talented writers will be attending our Young Playwrights Conference January 6-14, 2010 in New York City to workshop their plays in preparation for Off-Broadway staged readings on January 11-13. Congratulations to all! Justin Kuritzkes, Beverly Hills, CA for An Autobiography About My Brother Andrew decides to write an autobiography about his life and the life of his serial-killer brother. When the day of the execution arrives, will Andrew forgive his brother? Sara Glancy, Towson, MD for The Cheshire Smile Three college students recount the events of a Halloween party gone wrong, each speaking from his or her perspective. Gianna Starble, Denver, CO for Collectables Vera is a quirky girl on the verge of her 18th birthday, and her parents are concerned about her lack of social life and her persistence in a rather revolting compulsion. Can she gain control of her impulses and choose who she wants to become? Michael Evan Goodman, New York, NY for Crystal Sure Frank hallucinates his way through life. Who can tell what is imagined or real, or if it really matters? Madeline Sprung-Keyser, Los Angeles, CA for Family Portrait Two parents find their lives changed by the thought of a potential sexual predator. When risqué photos of their toddler show up at the local photo shop, husband and wife are forced to consider all the possibilities.

Laignee Barron, Oak View, CA for If I Were Your Superhero This moving drama follows the path of a mature and independent teenage girl as she develops an unexpected bond with an autistic boy. Emily Acker, Merion Station, PA for Milk and Honey A young Israeli set to follow in his father’s footsteps and join the army has second thoughts when he meets a Palestinian of the same age. As the teens grow closer they realize that they share more than a passion for soccer. Sam Mayer, Houston, TX for None of My Friends Are Dying In this poetic drama a young gay man struggles to acknowledge his place within an established culture and history. Fabrizio Ciccone, Plano, TX for Restrictions A haunting exploration of four characters in a purported “safe house” that discover that the space they are in might not be as safe as they imagine. Katie Hunter, Overland Park, KS for A small town has fallen under the influence of a social networking site and teenage heroes must save their community from a plot to brainwash them in this satirical play.

The postmark deadline for the 2010 Young Playwrights Inc. National Playwriting Competition is January 2, 2010. Visit our website for addional information and submission instructions:


riter’s lock

Where and When to Set Your Play This past month the participants in our Advanced Playwriting Workshop had the great fortune to watch the first preview performance of Liz Duffy Adams’ new play, Or, at the Women’s Project. The premise is this: historical figure Aphra Behn is in prison for debt after serving unsuccessfully as a spy for England, and resolves to become a professional writer and support herself through her art. Farce ensues when Aphra is given her one big shot to prove herself as a writer on the same night her exboyfriend tries to kill the king (both of whom end up in her apartment). Aphra Behn was criticized during her lifetime for being too much of a libertine, but Adams embraces this free spirit with a little sex, hookah smoking, and rock music (from the 1960s, not the 1660s). Was Behn 300 years ahead of her time? In addition to an entertaining evening of theatre (which I highly recommend), it makes me think: why does a playwright choose to write a play set in another time and place? Other playwrights have done this too—Arthur Miller and The Crucible comes to mind. It is set during the Salem Witch Trials, but everyone knows that Miller is REALLY writing about more immediate history: the McCarthy Hearings.

Sometimes, as in Miller’s case, history allows people to gain a different perspective on a current conflict. For other playwrights, the time and place may evoke certain resonance with the message they want to get across. The setting of your play can influence the lives of your characters greatly—it can affect the way they speak, the obstacles they encounter, the dynamics in their relationships, and even the plot itself. To consider the role of setting in your own work, you may want to try the following exercise adapted from our Write A Play! Curriculum: You will need instrumental music, (check out classical pieces, big band, etc). You will be writing a scene that takes place at character D’s place, creating a setting inspired by the music you hear. It can be any place your imagination takes you! 1. Choose your track and have it ready. No need to be familiar with it beforehand! 2. Play the music—just listen for a moment, letting your mind wander. What do you see? Describe the physical aspects of the place along with the mood and feel. 3. Begin to write a description of the setting, including as many details as possible. 4. Once you get the description down, introduce Character D. D can be anything you imagine—male or female, human or non-human. D may enter the space or be already in it. 5. Describe performing speaking.

what actions D is without actually

6. Stop the music and reread the scene you have just started. Does it compel you to keep going? If so, introduce a second character and see what happens! If not, select a different piece of music and repeat!

Supporting the Arts There’s an urban legend that keeps resurfacing. The story gets told in a number of ways, but the ending is always the same: young people aren’t interested in the arts, young people aren’t interested in theater. On behalf of the intelligent, education-seeking, forward-thinking, arts-loving, theater-going young people I see everyday (and there are lots of them from every corner of our society), I’d like to debunk this myth right now. If you spend some time hanging around at Young Playwrights Inc. you’ll see that young people are not only interested in the arts and in theater, they’re clearly interested in the hard work of making art, in writing and rewriting, in making themselves heard, and in listening to their peers and to more experienced artists. No, young people are not interested in being condescended to, in being segregated from the full experience of the arts (either as artist or arts consumer), or being considered second-class citizens (if they are considered citizens at all), but let’s face it, would you want to be treated that way? Young Playwrights Inc.’s programs are a safe haven for young artists – and as a result, we attracted record numbers of young people this year. Submissions to Write A Play! NYC increased by 15%, applications to the free Advanced Playwriting Workshop increased by 25%, and applications to the Urban Retreat doubled. And despite a drop in funding, Young Playwrights Inc. just put more chairs around the table and invited more young people in – because that’s what we’re here to do. And nobody does it better. For more information on how to be a Young Playwrights Inc. supporter email or call 212.594.5440

Save the Date! Coming Soon from Young Playwrights Inc. . . .

December 5, 2009 Teacher Training Institute - Introductory Session January 2, 2010 National Playwriting Competition Entry Deadline January 6-14

Young Playwrights Conference

January 11-13

Young Playwrights Conference Readings Series

February 6-7

Teacher Training Institute

March 1

Write A Play! New York City Competition Deadline Urban Retreat Early Bird Application Postmark Deadline

March 13

Teacher Training Institute - Introductory Session

May 1

Urban Retreat Final Application Postmark Deadline

July 10-18

Urban Retreat

Collaboration Gives New Perspective to Diary of a Young Writer Anne Frank, the young Jewish girl whose diary was published by her family after WWII, has become much more than one of the many young lives lost during the Holocaust. Her diary has humanized the plight of millions, and through her courageous and honest words, countless readers have been able to connect to her experiences. Now, through a collaboration with the Anne Frank Center USA and the Vineyard Theater, Young Playwrights Inc. is helping young people in several New York City schools not only listen to Anne Frank’s story, but to tell their own stories through theater. The initiative, now in its second year, is called the Diary 21 Project, and each year it produces a new work of theatre written and performed by young writers and actors called “Are We Writing Loud Enough?”. The first phase of the project involves exploring The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank. With copies of the book and curriculum plans provided by the Anne Frank Center USA, participants will read and discuss Frank’s words and her experiences in their classes with their teachers. Next, a professional playwright trained in Young Playwrights Inc.’s Write A Play! Curriculum will visit the classroom for several workshop sessions during which participants become authors themselves—each writing his or her own story as a playwright. This body of work then gets passed on to the young actors of the Vineyard Theatre Student Company, who will rehearse and perform the new play for the playwrights, friends and family, and the general public. The long-range goal of the project is to continue expansion, not only in New York City but to other areas of the country. For more information about this project, classroom workshops, or performances, please contact Young Playwrights Inc. (info@

Photo Courtesty of AFS/AFF, Amsterdam/Basel

Straight from the Teacher’s Mouth By: Alysoun Roach In the 2008-2009 school year, William Cullen Bryant High School teacher Alysoun Roach worked with Young Playwrights Inc. to bring our Write A Play! Workshops to her classes. Her workshop leader was Kait Kerrigan, who just won the 2009 Edward Kelban Award as the most promising musical book writer in America. What follows is Ms. Roach’s perspective on having the Write A Play! Workshop brought to her classes: One of my goals is to introduce the students to the arts by starting them here at Bryant. The Young Playwrights Inc. Write A Play! Workshop added to a significant conversation already begun. Having an actual playwright teach the class brings excitement to the classroomconveys the very realness of drama as a living art- not merely words on a page. Some students are unaware of the endeavor of playwriting as an ongoing phenomenon in the world today. A guest teacher also refreshes the classroom community and an expert motivates the students in a new way. While watching the guest instructor, I was reminded of just how crucial and refreshing it is to get students out of their seats. This seems so simple, but sometimes we educators need to be reminded. The role-plays were enjoyable for all and provided differentiated instruction. I must share the discovery of one student’s extreme creativity; though he has been my high achieving student since September, he never revealed his impressive imagination like he did during the playwright

workshop. Because of his enthusiasm and talent, I plan to recommend him for the Creative Writing elective next year. Had it not been for the workshop, I fear the year would have ended without my knowing how gifted he is. Another student who bloomed during the workshop couldn’t stop writing her play, and she asked for more time to complete the student evaluation form. She thought it imperative that she convey the worth of the program. After the workshop ended, my classes delved into Shakespeare’s Othello, and more than once in class discussion, students used language that had been introduced or reinforced by Ms. Kerrigan. Recalling the high interest present during the role plays led by Ms. Kerrigan, I had students briefly act out aspects of Othello without words and found this to be extremely helpful in making the plot and language more accessible. Having a playwright (especially one who is young and intelligent) reinforces the value of the arts from another angle. Encouraging students to create their own plays ends the misconception that theater is something apart from them, something remote intended only for some kind of elite. Theater – indeed all the arts, are meant for, as Garrison Keillor states in his introduction to Good Poems for Hard Times, “people in a jam-you and me.”

Alumni Spotlight By: Elisabeth Frankel

In October of 2008, Sheri Goldhirsch, the artistic director of Young Playwrights Inc., called my home. “You won!” she told me. I can’t describe how excited I was! Almost a year before, in December of 2007, I had submitted my play Moon on the Horizon to the Young Playwrights Inc. National Playwriting Competition. Between that amazing phone call and January of 2009, I worked with my very own assigned dramaturg and director over the phone and by email to get a cleaner draft of my play to bring to the 2009 Young Playwrights Conference in New York City. In January of 2009, I missed two weeks of school (right before exam week!) to attend the conference, along with ten other winning playwrights. We had come from all around the country, and our ages ranged from fifteen to twenty-one. We each had our own production team: a professional director, dramaturg, actors, and stage manager. The first day of the conference, every playwright, surrounded by his or her own team, sat in one big room, and we had a 12-hour long read-through of every single person’s play. I quickly discovered that the ten other plays, all of which were excellent and slightly humbling with which to be associated, were all very important and integral to each playwright’s life. In addition to rehearsing our plays, the group, as a whole, took part in many lectures, workshops, and talkbacks about the study of playwriting from artists like David Henry Hwang and Quiara Alegría Hudes. We also saw Broadway and off-Broadway plays like Equus, studying the structure of these plays. At the end

of the conference, our plays were given a professional staged reading at the Cherry Lane Theater. As teenagers, it was so exciting to be taken so seriously as artists; we gave feedback, were asked questions about the characters, and were involved in the rehearsal process in the same fashion as professional playwrights. Most memorably, we were all there supporting each other, as well as being proud of our own showcased work. Somehow through all that hard work and a lot of fun (which included iceskating in Central Park, getting lost in the subway, lots of food delivery from the diner around the corner, and bonding in the hotel rooms), we had grown into a community of writers. It makes sense that teenagers who have enough initiative to submit a play to a national competition would have many other things in common and would grow to become great friends. Having a rich and memorable experience like this embodies what I love about theater and, more importantly, the community of peers that can be formed around theater. I learned so much about the professional process of working on a play, and I now feel far more knowledgeable in this craft than I did before. Not only will I always cherish what I was taught at this conference, I have connections with a group of writers just like me.

Elisabeth Frankel is a senior at Dwight-Englewood School and one of ten winners of the 2008 Young Playwrights Inc. National Playwriting Competition.

Happenings Jason Brown (YPF84) currently instructs screenplay writing with Writers Boot Camp in New York City and also writes, directs, produces and edits films. Julia Jarcho’s (YPF01) new play American Treasure was presented at the Bay Area Playwrights Festival this summer, and will be produced by 13p in New York in November. MJ Halberstadt (WC09) just had an article about his experiences with Young Playwrights Inc. published in Imagine Magazine’s November/ December edition. Barry Levey’s (YPF96) latest play, Hoaxocaust!, was produced by Prospect Theater Company at 59E59 Theaters in April 2009. Caroline V. McGraw (YPF01) began her Playwriting MFA at the Yale School of Drama in August. This past year, her full-length play The King is Dead was produced by Highwire Theatre. William Nedved’s (YPF97) short play KID was named “Best Production” at Collaboraction Theatre’s 2009 Sketchbook, in Chicago. Charlotte Rahn-Lee‘s (YPF02) first full length play, Double Helix to Heaven, was a finalist for the STAGE International Script competition. Charlie Schulman (YPF83,85) currently teaches playwriting at New York University and Drew University and his chapter on playwriting appears in The Portable MFA in Creative Writing. Emily Chadick Weiss (WC03) has become a finalist for the Heideman award through the Actors Theatre of Louisville. This is her third year as a member of The Ensemble Studio Theatre’s playwriting group Youngblood. Deborah Yarchun (WC04, 05 / YPF06) recently worked on developing her new full length play Portmanteaux at WordBRIDGE in Clemson, SC. Eric Ziegenhagen (YPF88) recently directed short plays by Brett Neveu and Laura Eason at The Side Project and American Theatre Co., both in Chicago, as well as Alan Ayckbourn’s epic The Revengers’ Comedies at Northern Illinois University.



Can’t place the playwright with the play? Visit the alumni section of our website for a full list of participants and their plays. www.

Young Playwrights Inc. POST OFFICE BOX 5134 NEW YORK, NY 10185


Wordplay November 2009  

The official newsletter of Young Playwrights Inc. The only professional theater in the United States dedicated to playwrights aged 18 and un...