Tuesday, December 8, 2009

High School plays due in 1 month!

Hey High School playwrights (grades 10-12), there is exactly 1 month until the deadline for submission to plays in the following divisions:

- High School
- Rewrites
- Podstages

Scripts are due by email no later than 11:59 p.m., Saturday, January 8, 2010.

Please visit the Festival website for submission guidelines, forms, and other information - www.njypf.org.

Happy writing!

Saturday, December 5, 2009

The Debate About Format

Each year of the Festival, there are more questions about how to format a script than there are questions about anything else. This is usually because when scripts are published into books and included in textbooks, the printers will condense the text to read like a novel and to save space (which also saves money). The result is a script that looks like this excerpt from our sample play, The Day Jennifer Lou Ellen Mississipp Kerbunkle Changed Her Life by Bernadette Bizer, 2003:

You can click on the script samples for a larger view.

However, when you write a play and submit it to a theatre or contest, the preferred format looks like this:

This last format above is fairly standard with some variety in the way in which descriptive stage directions are formatted. For example, sometimes the stage directions that describe the scene will be indented toward the middle of the page and without parenthesis. This creates a paragraph on the right side of the page. Stage directions that provide specific character action or emotion are still indented once from the left.

However, the preferred format for the NJ Young Playwrights Festival is different from that variation and other theatres or contest might have a slightly different format, too. So, whenever you submit a play to a theatre or a contest, you should always check how they want the play to be arranged. You will find the NJ Young Playwrights Festival preferred format at the website - http://www.njypf.org/. And never be afraid to contact a theatre with any questions.

Happy writing!

Monday, November 23, 2009

Setting things in motion

Hopefully you have jumped the first hurdle of writing your play and have decided on something to write about! No matter how you got started - with a character or plot idea - your play is likely to get stuck without a clear sense of how and why the dramatic action occurs.

In the first few scenes of a play, the audience learns about a main character(s) everyday life. This includes what he/she does, who they communicate with, and the environment in which they live, among others. Once this everyday existence is established, the play will begin to take off as the character's world is suddenly turned upside-down and he/she is in a position where action is necessary. I wrote a little about this idea last year (http://njyoungplaywrights.blogspot.com/2008/12/creating-conflict-and-raising-stakes.html).

For an example, let's look at the story of Little Red Riding Hood. In our introductory scenes we want to create Little Red's everyday world so we explore her life and ask ourselves questions about where she lives (what is the house like? where is it located?), what she does (does she go to school? do chores around the house?), who she lives with (who is in her family). The answer to these questions can provide information that is used in the play to create Little Red's world as it exists day-in and day-out. Then, something needs to happen that changes everything. In your English/Language Arts classes your teacher might refer to this as the "Inciting Incident" of the story - we'll call it the "Emergency."

Depending upon how you interpret the story of Little Red Riding Hood, or even which version you consider, there are a couple of dangerous moments that Little Red has to face. The Wolf may come to mind - his actions certainly present a dangerous situation for Red and her Grandma - but this is not our Emergency. Instead, we need to look for an event earlier in the play that changes Little Red's life and sends her on the journey where she eventually confronts the Wolf. For me, the Emergency is the moment when Little Red's mom asks her to take a basket of goodies to her sick Grandmother in the woods. This journey is new for Red - something completely out of her everyday existence - and it is in the action of trying to get the goodies to Grandma that Little Red's story unfolds.

Also consider the story of Cinderella (http://njyoungplaywrights.blogspot.com/2008/12/emergency-situation.html). The arrival of the invitation to the Prince's Ball is the Emergency event that breaks Cinderella from her typical routine. Now, she has the chance to get a better life for herself (not that I'm suggesting that marrying a Prince is the answer for Cinderella).

Take a look at the first scenes of your play and ask yourself the following questions:
  • Do these scenes show a typical day in the life of my main character?
  • Is the character's goal/want clear?
  • What happens that causes the character to go on his/her journey? (What is the Emergency?)

You may find that some of the answers to these questions will help to clarify the Emergency event that sets the entire play in motion. See where it takes you!

Happy writing!

Thursday, November 12, 2009

NJ Young Playwrights' script readings at NYU on Nov. 14

Two plays from the 2009 New Jersey Young Playwrights Festival will be read at the Theatrix! Festival this Saturday, November 14 at New York University.

The program begins at 4:30 pm with a reading of the new full-length version of Requiem by Samantha Berstler. At 7:30, there will be a series of readings of short plays that will include The Art of Interrogation by Fallon Schlossman, Rebecca Van Voorhees, and Lydia Gracey.

The readings will take place in the 3rd floor student lounge in the Pless Annex. The building is located at the corner of Washington Square East and Washington Place. The event is free and open to public, so please come out and support the playwrights' work.

Congrats to Samantha, Fallon, Rebecca, and Lydia on this achievement!

Friday, October 23, 2009

Young Playwrights Readings at NYU

Here is a great opportunity for young playwrights (up to age 18) in New Jersey, Connecticut, and NYC, and the surrounding areas in New York State. The submission deadline is VERY soon, but if you've got a 10-minute script lying around, or something that you wrote for the NJ Young Playwrights Festival last year (or the year before), send it in!



Spread the word...
NYU's Program in Educational Theatre is seeking 10-minute plays from young playwrights (up to age 18)

The Run Down...
- Interested young playwrights should contact Amy Cordileone at amy.cord@nyu.edu to receive a submission form.

- A completed submission form and script must be emailed to Amy at amy.cord@nyu.edu to be considered for the Festival. The submission deadline is October 30.

- Selected playwrights will be notified of acceptance by November 3.

- Young playwrights will work with a playwriting mentor from NYU on Friday evening (Nov 12, 7-10 pm) and all day Saturday (Nov 14, 10 am -10 pm)

- The plays will be featured in a showcase on Saturday evening, at 7:30 pm, in the Pless Hall Student Lounge (open to the public). Plays will be performed and directed by members of the NYU community!

Friday, October 9, 2009

Let the Writing Begin Again!

Welcome back! To school, to the blog, to the act of writing a play. I hope that your summer ended on a good note and that the return to school has been successful.

Students in the Madison and Cranford Schools returned to the annual Madison and Cranford Young Playwrights Programs over the past few weeks. There is some phenomenal turnout in both programs, particularly at the schools where students saw their plays performed in the NJ Young Playwrights Festival in May. We wish those students all the best as they begin to create their new scripts this year. I hope that you have begun your writing, too!

Remember, you do not need to wait for the January deadlines to submit your work. Submissions are currently being accepted at the Contest website - www.njypf.org. We already have a couple in, so feel free to drop your's off, too (via internet and email, of course).

I'll be back with some writing exercises over the next few weeks. Hopefully these will help you along as you write. In the meantime, brainstorm some ideas that you would like to write about. See if you can at least get a main character in mind. The next exercise will focus on developing characters. So until then...

Happy writing!

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

First submission received for 2010

This past Sunday, August 23, we received the first submission for the NJ Young Playwrights Festival 2010! What is additionally exciting is that the script was for the all new Podstages division for high school students.

So, if you've got your play ready, don't wait for the school year to start. You can submit a script by visiting the Festival website at www.njypf.org. Be sure to follow the submission procedures carefully as they are all new for this year.

We're looking forward to reading your play!

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Speaking at the AATE / ATHE Conference

Since Saturday, I have been attending the joint AATE/ATHE conference in New York. These organizations are communities of theatre educators and practicioners at all levels of education throughout North America. It has been great meeting other artist/educators and discussing their work. I had the priviledge to speak on a Debut panel about my work with you young playwrights through the local and statewide Festivals conducted by Playwrights Theatre. This afternoon I will speak on one more panel. I will share the table with playwrights and teachers from all over the country as we discuss our different methods of developing new work for and by youth in elementary school up through college.

There are a lot of opportunities out there for you to explore. I hope to have some of that information to you in the next few weeks. In the meantime, the new NJYPF website has been fully updated - www.njypf.org - Take a look and happy writing!

Monday, August 3, 2009

ALL NEW NJYPContest/Festival!

The NJ Young Playwrights Contest/Festival has done some retooling for 2010! There is a new web address, a new division, new submission guidelines, and a new process for submitting your work. You can check it all out at http://www.njypf.org.

The biggest change for NJYPF 2010 is the submission process. We are now accepting scripts via internet submission. Plays MUST be written in MS Word or a PDF document to be eligible.

PLEASE NOTE!: Word documents should be saved as .doc files. We are not currently able to open .docx files.

The other submission guidelines have also changed considerably. Please be sure to check those out on the website before submitting your script.

Podstages is a division for students in grades 10-12 to submit original radio dramas. The format for a radio drama is different from the play script format. A sample of each is provided on the website.

PLEASE NOTE!: A plays may only be submitted to one division. If you write a play for the HS division, that play CANNOT be reformatted and submitted in the Podstages division, and vice versa.

Scripts for the High School, Rewrites, and Podstages divisions are due by 11:59 pm on Friday, January 8, 2010.

Scripts for the Junior HS and Elementary divisions are due by 11:59 pm on Friday, January 15, 2010.

Contest brochures will be sent to schools at the beginning of October, but you can begin writing your play now. Please do not hesitate to contact us if you have any questions.

Happy writing!

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Summer Playwrights

It's been a busy summer at Playwrights Theatre. Tomorrow ends our second session of Summer Theatre Camp and then there are three more sessions to go! (Still room in our classes, too. Click here to check it out and to sign up for a class - http://www.ptnj.org/PubCL/ClassDescriptions.htm#summer)

In our first session, the students in the Playwriting Lab wrote their own short plays under the direction of PTNJ teaching artist Ben Clawson. Ben and fellow actors, Scott Cagney and Annie Rutherford Lutz, performed the students' work at an informal table reading on the last day of camp.

Ben Clawson and some of the playwrights at work.

All of our summer offerings center on the creation of new work by the class participants, but the Playwriting Lab is the home for students in grades 7-12 who want to work on their own piece. I hope to see some of the scripts generated in this past class submitted to the NJ Young Playwrights Festival in the fall.

(Speaking of the Festival, keep your eyes peeled for new submission guidelines as the end of summer approaches!)

Monday, June 29, 2009

Reflection by Samantha Berstler

The following is a reflection about the writing and Festival process written by Samantha Berstler. Her play, Requiem, was produced during the NJ Young Playwrights Festival 2009.

I am addicted to theatre - which is interesting, since I'm no actor. Instead, I like to slip into the very sinews of a performance. I like to mold, to craft. To be brief, I write plays.

I wrote my first script at age ten for a Playwrights Theatre class. It was terrible. This attempt was followed by several subsequent scripts, which were also terrible but were admittedly less terrible than the first. But I had good teachers and encouraging friends, so I never quit.

Last November, nearly seven years after penning my first stage direction, I tried to tell a story one more time. This story became Requiem, and Requiem became a winner of the New Jersey Young Playwrights Festival of 2009, and I learned that my words would breathe on a stage.

And I was terrified.

Here's the thing about Requiem: the play tells the story of a writer in a totalitarian prison and utilizes such devices as, say, torture and guns. My director and cast, I was convinced, would think I was an absolute psycho.

So as I listened to the first read-through and clutched my binder like a life-buoy, I wanted to crawl under the table. A heavy silence hung over the room after the last line, and then my director began to speak. I cringed, waiting for the question, "What on earth were you thinking when you wrote this garbage?" But a minute passed. Then another. And I realized that they - my director and cast - respected the story. This was a powerful validation of my work as a writer.

Indeed, it was inspiring to see four accomplished adults dissecting, probing the dialogue I had written. Several times, I paused to wonder, "Wait, really? Seriously? They're talking this way about my, a seventeen-year-old's, work?"

But ultimately this wasn't an exercise in flattering a writer's ego. The experience truly helped me learn more about my script. After only one read-through, I was able to hear a myriad of new things: rhythm that didn't work and rhythm that did, lines that needed to be cut or added, plot points that remained unclear. Sometimes someone asked me a question, and I realized I couldn't answer because I had never thought about that aspect of the story before. After the performance, I began rewriting the script based on information I had gleaned from this process.

Before the lights rose for the actual performance, I was trembling again. I cannot tell you what my audience thought as the play progressed. But I do remember hearing sharp gasps during the violence. I do remember my friends wiping dewy eyes. And I do remember the tremendous, painful stillness that swelled throughout the room after the Poet asked the audience to look at him.

By the end of the play, I realized I was no longer frightened. The Man spoke the final line. I closed my eyes and listened to the soft silence between his last word and the applause. It was a beautiful feeling.

Note: Samantha is currently working on a revision of Requiem.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Former NJYPFestival winner to have new play produced

Mary Hamilton, a winner of the NJ Young Playwrights Festival in 2000 and 2001, will have her new play, We Three, produced at the PlayPenn 2009 conference in Philadelphia on Sunday, July 26th.

Mary's award winning plays in the NJ Young Playwrights Festival include The Original in 2000 and Grandfather's House and A Room, both in 2001. According to the biography listed at the PlayPenn website, Mary "received a BA in English from Rutgers University, and is currently a recipient of the Iowa Arts Fellowship, completing her final year in the University of Iowa's Playwrights Workshop."

Congratulations, Mary!

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Original work by PTNJ Teen Troupe this weekend

Since 2004, Playwrights Theatre has hosted a pair of performance troupes as part of the Creative Arts Academy offerings. I began the Youth Troupe ensemble (grades 6-8) in 2004 by directing a group of 13 students in the creation of an original devised piece. The Troupe program grew the following year with the addition of Teen Troupe (grades 9-12) under the direction of Alysia Souder. The philosophy of both ensembles is to engage students in a play development process that places creative direction into the hands of the group. The Troupes are in part a training program to build theatre skills and to provide a unique forum for exploring thoughts and opinions, and expressing them creatively through a structured art form. This weekend, the Teen Troupe ensemble is pleased to present the world premiere of their play, Anywhen.

Anywhen is a science-fiction work that examines a society where the individual has become obsolete and in order to promote an efficient and conflict-free society, its members function as if they had "one mind." The ease of operating as a collective comes with some drawbacks as creativity, passion and emotion are no longer necessary. All members of this world are conditioned to function for the benefit of the whole and those that display even small behaviors to the contrary are reformed, however there is one that is so different, that all of societies boundaries only fuel his desire to be himself. Anywhen is his journey.

Anywhen will have two performances; Saturday, June 13 at 7:00 pm and Sunday, June 14 at 3 pm at Playwrights Theatre, 33 Green Village Road, Madison, NJ. No reservation is required but space is limited. Admission is $8.00 Adults, $5.00 students.

We hope to see you there!

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Bergen County Playwrights

Here is a link to an article at the Paramus Post about the 17th annual Young Playwrights Festival of Bergen County conducted by Bergen Community College. One of the winners in this contest is Kate Moore Heaney from Bergen County Academies for her play Upstage. Her play was also a finalist in the NJ Young Playwrights Festival 2009. This means that her play reached the final round of judging in our competition.


Congratulations to Kate and to all of the Bergen County playwrights!

Friday, May 29, 2009

High School Reading

On Tuesday, May 19th, we staged the four plays from the High School Division (photos from the tech rehearsal can be found a few posts below this one). As a staged-reading, the actors still performed with a script in hand, but we were able to add some blocking and minimal production details like sound and lights to give a sense of what the play might be like on stage. The tech staff at Kean was great and really gave us a lot to work with in a very little amount of time.

I spoke with the playwrights after the performance and it sounded like they came away from the show with a few new ideas about the piece, and perhaps some inspiration for a new play down the line. I've asked them to write about their experience in the Festival and I hope to have those pieces on the blog during the summer. So stay tuned!

Here are some pictures of the playwrights and cast after the performance:

(From l - r) Tyler McGuckin, Jennifer Woods, Ben Muzi, and Samantha Berstler.

Playwrights and casts.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Junior HS and Elementary Reading

The Festival performances began on Monday, May 18 with a reading of the plays from the Junior HS and Elementary School Divisions - 8 plays in total! As a reading, the actors performed with their scripts on stands at the front of the stage. Costume pieces like hats, or glasses, and some props were used to indicate locations, or other important bits of information. Presenting plays in a format like this allows the audience to imagine the look of the story while placing the script itself into the spotlight. I think it makes for a much more personal experience for each audience member.

These eight plays were terrific! The audience laughed a lot and applauded a great deal. At the end of the reading, we presented certificates to the thirteen playwrights (three of the plays were written by a duo or trio!) and a representative from each school. Here are some pictures of the playwrights...

Elementary School playwrights (grades 4-6)

Junior HS playwrights (grades 7-9)

Junior HS playwrights and the cast.

Congratulations again to all of the playwrights!

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Tech Rehearsal Photos

Here are some pictures from the high school division tech rehearsals on Monday afternoon.

'TIL DEATH DO US PART by Jennifer Woods

Tara Henderson as Madison and Jonathan Silver as Caleb.

SUITCASE by Tyler McGuckin

Scott Morales as O'Connell and Jonathan Silver as Cohen.
(That first picture is of O'Connell attacking Cohen. Blurry, but a neat picture.)

REQUIEM by Samantha Berstler

(l - r) Alannah Potter as Hero, Paul Reisman as Man, and Jack Moran as Poet.

ABOUT TO POP! by Ben Muzi
(l - r) Jeff Ronan as Andy, Jane Keitel as Miss Henderson, and Jack Moran as Mr. Jones.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Day Two Photos

Some pictures from rehearsal on Sunday morning...

Jack Moran (left) and Paul Reisman (right) rehearse a scene from Requiem.

Alannah Potter and Jack Moran rehearse Requiem.

Stephen Davis and Tyler McGuckin watch rehearsal of Tyler's play, Suitcase.
Jonathan Silver (left) and Scott Morales (right) rehearse Suitcase.

Pictures from tech posted tomorrow!

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Day Two Rehearsal - Jim Ligon, Director

9:30 AM! Who rehearses at 9:30am on a Sunday? We do!!

Very productive day two rehearsal sessions.

Got the new script from Samantha (excellent re-working of the doctor scene) and staged Requiem in the morning session. New version runs about 20 minutes or so. Some complicated staging required, but the actors were quite good at making it look easy and natural after a few run-throughs. Sam told us about all the research she's done on persecution in totalitarian states and how she was inspired by that research to write the play. Also - gave us all a pronunciation lesson in Latin! :-)

Lunch - Ziti ala DeVivo!

In the afternoon session we finished staging About to Pop, and then ran through it a few times. Some great comic bits grew out of the session. Next prom -- everybody dresses in black!

- - - - -

In the staging of "script-in-hand" readings like this, the emphasis should be on the author and his/her work. It's important for the audience to get a feel for what the play might look like physically staged, but it's more important for them to hear the words and feel the power of the language. That's why we create the physical world with as few impediments to the script as we can, but still try to establish a sense of space, time and character. The actors are all quite good at this and that makes the process that much easier. Looking forward to tech and the performance on Tuesday.

Day One Photos

Here are some pictures from the read thrus of the high school plays on May 16th. Captions are below each picture.

Ben Muzi (center), author of About to Pop!, listens to the read-thru of his play.
Also pictured are (at left) Jim Ligon, director, and actors Jack Moran (right) and Alannah Potter (back to camera).

Jeff Ronan (center) plays Andy, the main character in About to Pop!

Stephen Davis gives direction to actors Jonathan Silver and Tara Henderson (foreground),
as Jennifer Woods, author of 'Til Death Do Us Part, looks on.

Samantha Berstler, author of Requiem, discusses her play with director, Jim Ligon (far right) and Alannah Potter.
More pictures to follow.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Day One Rehearsal - Jim Ligon, Director

Read through the two plays I'm directing today. Requiem by Samantha Berstler, and About to Pop by Ben Muzi. Also, was able to stage most of About to Pop. (Thanks to all the actors for following my lightening fast blocking notes and staying on top of it all.)

I love this stuff. Working with new writers, fresh ideas and different voices. Requiem is a very mature and complicated play about a young woman's visions of the torture of a dissident poet in a totalitarian state. At the other end of the theatrical spectrum is the satirical comedy, About to Pop, about a HS senior whose collage poetry project is mistakenly thought to be a warning sign of an imminent emotional breakdown, when in reality it's just about getting ready to leave HS for college. It's wickedly funny.

Both Ben and Samantha were nervous, hearing their work read for the first time today! After hearing the plays read aloud, Samantha was inspired to head back to the computer and make some line changes and some minor restructuring. We anticipate a new script tomorrow morning from her! I caught Ben laughing at his piece, out of the corner of my eye, as we were staging it. He left today's session with a few suggestions to punch up some jokes, and maybe consider a few line changes for clarity's sake.

I'm glad to be collaborating with two very intelligent and creative writers. Looking forward to seeing it all on it's feet, as well as the other two plays in the HS festival.

Rehearsal begins today

We're only half an hour away from the first rehearsal of the NJ Young Playwrights Festival 2009. I'm stealing a moment from my last minute preparations to invite you to check back regularly as members of the Festival production team may be posting throughout the rehearsal process. Check back soon!

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Reservations required

There is still time to make a reservation for the NJ Young Playwrights Festival on either date (or both):

- May 18 @ 10:00 am - a reading of the Junior HS/Elementary plays
- May 19 @ 10:00 am - a staged-reading of the High School plays

Space is limited for both sessions, so please call as soon as possible if you wish to attend. Let your friends and family know!

Friday, May 8, 2009

Casting Complete

Earlier this week I hired the last actor for the Festival, so our cast is now complete. This is a versitile group of performers with a strong group of plays, so I'm looking forward to getting started next Saturday, May 16th with the read-through rehearsals.

The scripts were sent to the actors yesterday and I've already begun to hear about their excitement to perform. I've read each of the 12 plays to be presented at the Festival a couple of times and am anxious to see how they transform. It is quite one thing to read a play and imagine how the story might be staged. As a playwright myself I find there is so much more to the play than I ever intended once a group of actors and a director get a hold of the play and put their own ideas into it.

We're eight days from rehearsal. Keep your eyes open for more posts as we get closer. I'll also keep you updates of the day's events once we get started.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Eisenhower MS, Wyckoff

Congratulations to the 8th grade students at Eisenhower Middle School in Wyckoff. This past Tuesday, April 28th, Playwrights Theatre conducted an in-school assembly performance of selected student-written work. This event was the final celebration of a series of playwriting residencies with playwrights Carolyn Hunt and Dominique Cieri in which every 8th grade student wrote a one-act play.

We had a great time at the school and thank Assistant Principal Steve Raimo for his hospitality and for his continued encouragement of the students' creativity. We look forward to continuing our partnership and working with the students again next year.

Congratulations again!

Thursday, April 23, 2009

In the press

Here's a link to an article about the NJ Young Playwrights Festival in The Alternative Press.


As their website states: "TheAlternativePress.com is the all-online hyperlocal daily newspaper of the State of New Jersey, currently serving the residents of Berkeley Heights, Livingston, Madison, Millburn/Short Hills, New Providence, and Summit, New Jersey."


Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Beginning to cast

By now, all of our young playwrights with plays scheduled for presentation at the Festival should have been notified and we are beginning the process of casting the shows. I'm hoping to wrap up this process by the end of April.

Also, the response from playwrights' schools has been outstanding! I have received inquiries from all but one school regarding their intent to attend the Festival. This is excellent, but unfortunately also means that we need to limit the number of attendees for school groups and playwrights' for the Junior HS and Elementary reading on May 18th. But this is a great sign that the program is growing!

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Junior HS and Elementary winners announced


Beyond the Paint by Caroline Gelinne, 9th grade, Mount Saint Mary Academy

What We Remember by Melina Murray, 9th grade, Glen Ridge High School

The Art of Interrogation by Fallon Schlossman, Rebecca Van Voorhees, and Lydia Gracey, 8th grade, Millburn Middle School

Star Crossed Lovers by Viraj Khetani, Lindsay Maron, and Anna Gracey, 8th grade, Millburn Middle School


The Blacksmith's Daughter by Cristina Lopez, 4th grade, Lafayette Elementary School, Chatham

Filched by Salonee Shah and Lindsay Wang, 5th grade, Wildwood Elementary School, Mountain Lakes

Billifride by Owen Mairo, 4th grade, Brookside Place School, Cranford

The Time Machine of Spring Lake by Fiona Purce, 4th grade, Kings Road School, Madison

These plays are listed in no particular order and were selected anonymously. Judges were not provided with any of the playwrights' information.

These plays will be presented as readings during the New Jersey Young Playwrights Festival on Monday, May 18th at 10:00 am on the campus of Kean University in Union, NJ. The Festival is a partnership between Playwrights Theatre and Premiere Stages @ Kean University. This event is free, but reservations are required.If you or your school are interested in attending, please contact the Education Office at Playwrights Theatre at 973-514-1787, ext. 14. As seating is limited, priority will be given to the young playwrights' families and schools. Any other reservations will be made on a waiting list and admittance will be provided as seats become available.

We congratulate all playwrights who submitted their work to the Contest/Festival this year. As with the high school plays, we hope to have the written critiques of Junior HS and Elementary plays in the mail around mid-April.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

High School winners announced

The winners in the High School Division of the 26th annual New Jersey Young Playwrights Contest are:

Requiem by Samantha Berstler, 11th grader at Villa Walsh Academy
About to Pop! by Ben Muzi, 12th grader at Lawrence High School
Suitcase by Tyler McGuckin, 11th grader at Bergen County Academies
'Til Death Do Us Part by Jennifer Woods, 11th grader at Bergen County Academies

These plays are listed in no particular order and were selected anonymously. Judges were not provided with any of the playwrights' information.

These plays will be presented at the New Jersey Young Playwrights Festival on Tuesday, May 19th at 10:00 am on the campus of Kean University in Union, NJ. The Festival is a partnership between Playwrights Theatre and Premiere Stages @ Kean University. This event is free, but reservations are required.

If you or your school are interested in attending, please contact the Education Office at Playwrights Theatre at 973-514-1787, ext. 14. As seating is limited, priority will be given to the young playwrights' families and schools. Any other reservations will be made on a waiting list and admittance will be provided as seats become available.

We congratulate all playwrights who submitted their work to the Contest/Festival this year. We hope to have the written critiques of these plays in the mail around mid-April.

Judging for the Junior HS and Elementary school divisions has completed. Winning playwrights will be notified by mail in the next few days.

Thank you. And congratulations again!

Monday, March 23, 2009

Madison Young Playwrights Festival begins today!

Today is the first day of the 23rd annual Madison Young Playwrights Festival!

This afternoon we will begin with a read-through of all 16 plays with most of the playwrights on hand. Rehearsals will run throughout the week with three sets of performances: on Thursday and Friday we will conduct a staged reading at the four participating schools; on Saturday, all 16 plays will be featured on our main stage here at Playwrights Theatre. It is an exciting week and we're looking forward to getting started.

You can find more information about the Festival on our website at http://www.ptnj.org/SpecialEvents/MYPF.htm

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

"May I have the envelope, please..."

That old envelope contains the results of the 26th annual New Jersey Young Playwrights Contest. Over the next few days I will be contacting the 12 playwrights whose work has been selected for presentation during the Festival. Check back next week as the results will be posted then.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Hero's Journey writing tool

I wanted to pass along some information about a website that I perused this morning - ReadWriteThink.org. This site is a partnership between the International Reading Association and the National Council of Teachers of English and appears to be a collection of curriculum tools for teachers, but also contains some interactive writing guides for students.

I have not yet had the chance to look at the site thoroughly as I only came across it today through a link from the blog of YA novelist Laurie Halse Anderson. However, I did look at the "Hero's Journey" interactive and being a big fan of using this structure as a way to begin a story, thought that I would pass it on. You can link directly to the Hero interactive by clicking this link, or cutting and pasting it into your browser - http://www.readwritethink.org/materials/herosjourney/

This will take you through the background of the Hero's Journey concept and each of the steps of this story structure. Some of our older young playwrights may find it a bit elementary, but I would encourage giving it a try as a writing organizer, or something to help generate an outline. Give it a try!

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Finalists chosen!

It has been a very quick three weeks of judging. We are suddenly down to our final round of the NJ Young Playwrights Contest and I am currently in the process of forwarding the Finalist scripts to the members of the Selection Panel.

In a few weeks, I will meet with the Selection Panel to decide the four plays from each division that will receive a staged-reading during the NJ Young Playwrights Festival on May 19 & 20 at Kean University. A few playwrights and teachers have written me emails to inquire about our selection date and I wanted to post that information here in case there are more of you with similar questions.

Immediately after the Selection Panel makes its decision, I will contact each of the winning playwrights and their families directly. By the end of March, early April, we will publicly announce the selected plays. So, just another 3-4 weeks to go!

In the meantime, I'd like to publicly thank all of the Contest Readers who have given their time and expertise to make this program possible. They are still at work writing up their feedback to each of you who submitted a play to the Contest. I hope to have those to you by the end of April, early May.

Thanks again and happy writing!

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

In process...

It has been a busy couple of weeks here at the theatre. We received nearly 400 scripts from young playwrights across New Jersey! They are all currently with our Contest Readers who are reading the plays and writing feedback to each writer. The reports I get from the Readers are filled with excitement. I can't wait to get a look at some of the scripts.

The first round of the Contest will wrap up this Sunday, February 15th. The plays that advance to the second round will be sent back out to another group of readers who will recommend the plays that make it to the final round.

This week, I sent invitations to the other artists who will serve on the Selection Panel with me. We are working to schedule a time in March. At that time, we'll select the winning plays in each division.

There's not much to inform you of in between now and March, but please send me any questions that you might have about the Contest, or about playwriting in general. Send any questions to jdevivo@ptnj.org. I will try to post and answer some of them on the blog. Until next time... happy writing!

Monday, January 19, 2009


Congratulations to all the playwrights who submitted a play to the NJ Young Playwrights Contest 2009! It takes a substantial amount of work and energy to put your words on paper. And it takes a strong sense of confidence to set those words out into the world. Thank you for sharing these thoughts and stories with us. I can’t wait to begin reading your scripts.

Thanks and congratulations are also owed to all of the teachers, parents, and other supporters of the young playwrights. Your encouragement and assistance throughout this process is invaluable. Thank you for patronage of these young people as they have endeavored to share their insight with us.

What happens next?
The office has been inundated with scripts these past few days and I look forward to receiving many more when the post office reopens tomorrow morning. Over the next two weeks, our office will enter these scripts into our Contest database and begin forming packets of plays that will be read by two theatre artists. I will keep you updated of the Contests progress throughout the next few months. So, stay tuned and in the meantime, have fun!

Friday, January 16, 2009

Today is the Day!

The NJYPContest deadline is here! Be sure to get your play to the post office today before it closes. Check the US Postal Service website to find the hours for your local office - www.usps.com.

Now that you're done. Go celebrate!

I look forward to receiving your plays!

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

3 More Days

There are three more days to get to the Post Office and send your play to the NJ Young Playwrights Contest. Don't delay... send it in!

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Time to Share

10, 9, 8, 7…

Is it still the New Year even if you don't get to see the ball drop and the "2009" light up? Anyway, I hope you’ve had a great holiday filled with inspiration for your play. Some scripts have already started to come in to the office and I look forward to being inundated with them over the next two weeks. There is just a little over a week until your plays need to be postmarked for entry into the NJ Young Playwrights Contest. This means that you still have some time for last minute revisions and tweaking before January 16th.

Perhaps this weekend you can get together with a group of friends or family who’s opinion you trust and have an informal reading of the play. This doesn’t need to be a formal presentation, or a fully acted reading (though it can if you want it to be). Often a reading like this works best when everyone is hanging around the living room on couches or chairs. An informal reading will provide you with the opportunity to hear the play outside of your head and see how actors or your intended audience might respond to the piece.

I know that receiving critique on something that you’ve written can be uncomfortable to bear. This is why it is important to keep the event informal and only include people whose opinions you trust. It is also helpful to inform your group that the goal of the reading is for you to hear it out loud and potentially strengthen some areas. You may want to provide your readers with a list of questions you have, or certain sections of the play that you are unsure about. Ask the group to tell you what they liked FIRST, and then get into suggestions, questions, or ideas.

IMPORTANT! - Always remember that YOU are the playwright! Everyone who reads or sees your play will respond to it differently; will have his or her own opinion about how your story should be told. It is important that you listen to what people have to say, but in the end, this is your play and you have the final say in how it is written. Just remember that the goal of writing a play is to communicate an idea to the largest audience possible. The reactions of your reading group may give you an idea of what a larger audience does and does not get from your play. If they are missing something that you want the audience to get, you may want to see where you might be able to make revisions to get that point across.

Rewriting is tough, especially after you've put so much into completing that first draft. But it is well worth the trouble. Have fun!

Happy writing!