Friday, December 28, 2012

Sharing for revision

(portions of this post were originally published on January 8, 2009)

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 submitted for entry into the 2013 NJ Young Playwrights Contest. This means that you still have some time for last minute revisions and tweaking before January 14 and 15th. Be sure to follow the guidelines for submission on the NJYPF webpage at

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!

Friday, December 21, 2012

So, what are you saying?

(Originally published on December 23, 2008)

Everything that is created is made for a particular purpose. When an author writes, he or she does so for a certain audience. When you write a paper for class, the audience is your teacher. When you write an email to a friend, the friend is your audience. When you are writing your play, you are writing for a particular group. Do you know who that audience is? Do you know what your play is saying to them and what they might take away from the story?

The theme of a play is the message that the audience is left with after the story. Remember our friend, Penny from a few weeks ago? Well, let's suppose that she decides to steal the money to get her mother a present and she gets caught. The theme, or message to the audience, of that story might simply be "Don't steal." What would the message be if Penny doesn't get caught?

What is the theme if Penny decides for herself that stealing is wrong and as a result, isn't able to get a present for her mother? The theme might then come from how Mom reacts to Penny's decision. Let's say that Penny's mother doesn't mind that Penny didn't get a present, but is happy that her daughter made the right decision. There might be two themes there. First, the audience learns that stealing is wrong; a second message might be "it's the thought that counts." What are some others themes that you can get from this story?

Take a look at your play. Do you know what the theme is? When the play is over, how will the audience understand that this is the theme? Is there a moment where the theme is revealed, like when Penny learns a lesson?

Knowing who the audience of a play is will help a playwright select a theme and determine how it is presented to that audience. Obviously, this does not mean that a playwright will personally know everyone in the audience for their play. What it does mean is that when writing a play, a playwright has an intended audience. Who that intended audience might be can change how a play is presented.

Again, taking Penny as our example, the way that the theme is presented to an audience of 8-year-olds will be much different than how the theme is presented to adults.

A playwright should also consider how well informed an audience might be about a particular setting in the play, or references that the characters make to certain regions, pop culture, and other things. For example, there are things that are specific to life in New Jersey that people from other parts of the country may not understand. I recently spoke with one young playwright who was writing a play that takes place at the beach. There were some terms in the play that people who don't live near a beach may not know, which could lead to confusion about what is going on. To help avoid this kind of confusion, find some friends or family members who may not be familiar with your play, or these specifics, and ask them to read the play. You can use their feedback to find creative ways to include more details in your story without making it too unnatural to the dialogue. It is difficult to do, but definitely worth the try. But the results are very exciting!

Happy writing!

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Congratulations Madison Young Playwrights!

Today wraps the Madison Young Playwrights Program for two of the five participating schools. (The others will conclude in early January as they make up classes lost to Hurricane Sandy.) We celebrate another successful year of playwriting in the Madison Schools with some pictures from our archives. Enjoy!

Teaching artist Arthur Wilson leads the young playwrights from Torey J. Sabatini School during a residency in the late 1990's. Arthur began our "Advice to young playwrights" a few months ago (linked here).

A teaching artist with the playwriting group at Central Avenue School during the 1993-1994 season.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

"Silence is golden."

You’ve probably heard the phrase above before. The saying has ancient roots and can mean different things depending on the context in which it is spoken. Often I hear it used with the meaning that being silent is better than speaking. That may or may not be true under certain circumstances and is an interesting idea to consider when writing your play.

Each character in your play should speak with a unique voice. That means individual speech patterns, favorite phrases, and things like that. They way in which a character talks can say a lot about that character’s emotions, thoughts, ideas, and relationships with others. What might it mean when a character speaks in longer sentences? What about shorter – perhaps one word – phrases? What about one who takes a lot of pauses as opposed to a character who speaks quickly and without much stopping… or thinking? These qualities of speech help to form individual personalities for each of your characters, but also provide actors and directors with a number of cues about how to portray the people of your play, as well as the tone of the scene, etc.

I am drawn to characters who don’t say much. By this I mean those who don’t speak a lot in the play (don’t have many lines), or who answer in short sentences. To me, when a character doesn’t speak it means that he or she is thinking and that those thoughts may or may not always come out for the audience to hear. Much like the unopened door, the unspoken line can be quite powerful and bring the audience into the play.

As you go through a draft of your play and you find sections where there may be a lot of talking, or that are in need of some intrigue and excitement, see how silence might influence it.

Happy writing!

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Building... suspense!

“There is nothing more frightening than a closed door.”

Imagine that you are watching a play or a movie in which a character approaches a closed door, but has no idea what he or she is going to find behind it. Maybe this is Alice in Wonderland and Alice is facing the small door through which the White Rabbit just disappeared. She is curious to follow the rabbit, but uncertain what is going to happen on the other side. What should she do? What is going to happen on the other side? Alice doesn’t know and, if we as an audience are invested in the story, we share in that moment with her because it is familiar to us. We have all been in a position where we are faced with something that is unknown. In that moment we might think: What do I do? What will happen when I do that? We may feel any number of emotions at that point – anxiety, adventure, fear, excitement, or maybe all of those at once! Creating that tension for a character can create a sense of suspense within the audience. That draws them in and leaves them wanting to know more. This is called “suspense”.

At the heart of suspense is the idea put forth in the quote above: when a character is faced with something that is unknown, the audience’s imagination will create a scenario that makes the situation personally suspenseful to them. That is probably why the quote above is often attributed to Alfred Hitchcock, a filmmaker who created some of the iconic horror and suspense movies of the 1950s and 60s. (However, it is not clear that Hitchcock is actually the speaker of this phrase giving the phrase its own unknown quality!) Radio plays have also used this idea to trigger an audience’s imagination. This was important because the audience could only hear the story and had to “see” it in their minds. The audience for your play will be able to both hear and see the action, but using suspense and the idea of the unknown can be useful to keeping them (and in some ways, your characters) invested in the story.

This is related to the idea of “raising the stakes”, which was talked about in a previous post (linked here). When you raise the stakes for a character, you are challenging him or her in the quest to get what they need/want. As I discussed before that might including doing things that a character doesn’t think is possible, but it might also mean having to face something, or someone, whom they are not sure about. That leads me to another thought about silence…

… which I will share in the next post!

And now I have you thinking: What is he going to say about silence? You don’t know, or maybe you might now. Either way, your imagination is running and the thoughts are flying. The suspense is building, but you’ll just need to tune in again next time to find out…

Until then, happy writing!

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Advice to young playwrights, Part 4

Our advice to young playwrights continues with some thoughts from a few of the actors and readers who have worked on the New Jersey Young Playwrights Festival.


What makes a strong play?
A strong play has great characters and a moving/interesting plot.

A strong play is not necessarily a traditional story, but like any good story, it has a reason for being told here and now. A play's sole purpose can be entertainment, but that does not diminish the importance of the question: Why this play now?

What types of characters do you like to portray/write?
I love to play the comic relief most of the time. The character that can do no wrong and everybody loves him. Though playing a villain is also fun… playing a character that is not who I am.

I like to portray characters that are complicated. In real life, people are not stock characters. Real people have different layers to their character and sides of themselves that they don't always show the public, but are still inside. Stock characters are great in some genres of theatre (such as Commedia dell'arte), but realistic characters are complicated.

I find the most success writing characters whose actions are firmly based in the circumstances of the play. I always try to make sure that a character's actions spring from his/her surroundings or from other characters. Every action should be justifiable, even if it isn't logical (or sane).

What do you look for when choosing a play to work on?
I look for a play that has strong character relationships and a great conflict that those characters encounter.

I look for a play with language that makes the room buzz when it's read aloud. This can be dialogue in the form of a fierce, biting argument, or monologue in the form of a soulful soliloquy. This language seems to come from sincere and causal circumstances.

What advice would you give to a young playwright currently working on a new play?
To keep a positive and open mind. Believe in your work and give it your all.

Writing a play can be difficult, but it does not have to be sequential. Writing the last scene first, a middle scene last or a random scene with no definite place can ease the difficulty of writing scenes in order. Write the part you're dying to write!

Be open-minded. It is perfectly fine to have a clear vision for what you wish to accomplish with your piece, but be open to new ideas from people who haven't been working tirelessly on the script for months. Sometimes outsiders can offer ideas that you never would have thought of before! Try some ideas out and if they don't work, there's nothing wrong with scrapping them.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Be well, New Jersey

We hope that everyone out there is doing well. So many of our communities, including some of our partner schools, are still cleaning up in the wake of Sandy and our thoughts continue to be with them. The blog will return in a few days with more advice for young writers.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Conflict and Raising the Stakes

Originally published on December 12, 2008

Conflict is what drives the story of your play forward. This is the tension created between the main character and the obstacles that stand in the way of the character achieving his or her goal(s). Conflict starts with what the character wants. This can be something as simple as a character wanting to earn enough money to get a present for his or her mother. But remember, a playwright wants to get the audience to care about the main character and really root for him or her and that can be done by “raising the stakes,” or to put it another way, challenging the character’s desire to get what he or she wants.

Let’s use the example of the character who wants to earn money for a present. We’ll call her Penny. Keeping in mind the outline from a few posts ago, we need to identify Penny’s WANT and EMERGENCY. We know that she wants to earn money to get a present for her mother; I will leave it to you to decide why she needs to begin that journey (the Emergency). The next step is to figure out what she will do to earn the money. To do that, consider what are some things that people do to get what they want. These are the ACTIONS. Some examples might be:


You might be able to add more ideas to this list, or to change some of these suggestions to be more specific. “Ask” could become “borrow.”

Do you see how each action gets more serious? Not everyone will be comfortable to try each of these things, so the idea is not to choose one of these actions for the character, but to have them try each kind until they reach something that the character is not comfortable doing and needs to make a choice. For example, Penny might try asking a friend, or relative for the money, but is unable to earn enough to the present that she wants. So, she gets a job, but finds that she won’t earn the money quick enough. Then perhaps a friend mentions to Penny that she could steal the money, but Penny knows that stealing is wrong and is not comfortable doing that. Now she needs to make a decision. Does she steal the money so her mother has a present? Does she try something else? Does she get a different present? Not get a present at all?

Presenting your character with these different challenges raises their stakes in the story and creates greater tension. The result may be a play that draws the audience deeper into the story and gets them more invested in the outcome. And it is the outcome, or what the character decides to do and how they experience the consequence, which delivers your theme or message to the audience. But that’s for next week. For now, raise the stakes for your character – push them to the limit and see how they respond!

Happy writing!

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Advice to Young Playwrights, part 3 - Summer Hortillosa

Our next installment of Advice toYoung Playwrights comes from Summer Hortillosa, a 2007 NJ Young Playwrights Festival winner for her play, The Not-So Lovely Tale of Strawberry Fructose. Summer is a journalist, playwright, and director whose recent work can be found on her website

What makes a strong play?

I think strong plays have a clear direction in multiple areas -- character development, plot and audience experience. Strong plays feature relatable, consistent characters with believable dialogue that make their needs clear and drive the story. A strong play is one that has many movable parts that are pieced together in a way that the beginning can't help but eventually result in the ending and the ending seems to have only been possible because of the beginning.

What types of characters do you like to portray/write?

I like to both portray and write fantastic characters with fantastic needs. I like unique characters who are almost entirely figments of imagination but who have strong emotional cores that make them completely relatable. I like strong characters, strange characters and characters capable of witty, fun dialogue. Argumentative and honest are some of the best things a character can be.

What do you look for when choosing a play to work on?

Generally logistics play a large role when selecting a play for production, but otherwise I try to select plays I feel I have written well or, when doing someone else's play, that they have written well. I like to choose plays that explore a fair range of emotions, that would be fun to produce and watch and that I feel are strong and have interesting characters.

Please describe the best experience that you had working on a play.

My most recent production, a one-woman show in the SO LOW Theater Festival in Jersey City called Kookspeak, was one of my favorite experiences so far because production was easy. I wrote, directed and performed the piece and used very few props or effects, so I did not have to worry too much about budgeting, aligning schedules or a lot of other stuff that happens when I have to produce/stage manage/do everything for my shows. In this case, I mainly focused on promoting my show and on rehearsals.

Directing one's self can be a challenge and requires a lot of self-awareness (or, if possible, a video or mirror as an outside eye), but was a lot of fun for me. I was able to make myself work whenever I wanted to, and while I had a general rehearsal schedule that I set up for myself and tried to stick to, I had a lot of freedom to rehearse more or less than planned depending on my needs. I was free to push myself as hard as possible and make all the executive decisions, which is always great.

Also, it made the final product very pure -- I will perhaps never have a work as fully representative of who I am as an artist. The words, thoughts and emotions were all mine, as were the staging, direction, acting choices -- it was liberating and fully satisfying, especially when I received a great response from my audience and peers.

Please describe the worst experience that you had working on a play.

The worst -- or rather, most difficult -- experience I had working on a play was a full production of Shakespeare's As You Like It involving about 32 high school students. Having to direct over 30 teenagers with various levels of commitment and talent as well as oversee the entire production -- with very little control over the groups in charge of lighting, sound, costumes and props -- was mindbogglingly tough.

I had to double-cast our leads, Rosalind and Orlando, which lightened the load for four generally equally talented actors who weren't very accustomed to memorizing lots of Shakespearean speech, but made it difficult to make the characters consistent throughout the play. Also, as a requirement for the class, we had to have every student -- even those who were terrible at acting -- play a role. Lastly, as any director can imagine, coordinating the schedules of over 30 people and having to deal with egos, lateness, forgetfulness, mistakes, irresponsibility, and all the other possible vices any group of 30 could have was a monumental task in itself.

Overall, however, we were able to pull it all together and put on several great performances. As any director will quickly discover, learning to roll with the punches and press on to put on a good show is possibly the most important skill they can have.

What advice would you give to a young playwright currently working on a new play?

Make sure every effect has a cause and every cause has an effect when you revise. Tying up loose ends, making sure that important facts are established (in a natural way and at the right time) and keeping characters consistent will strengthen your play. Read dialogue out loud and make sure everything sounds natural; cut what you can. Don't fall in love too much with your favorite characters or with your ability to write, because you might end up dragging out scenes and tiring your audience or worse, finding yourself disappointed when your work is produced and the performance doesn't live up to your expectations.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Creating an Emergency Situation

Originally posted on December 4, 2008.

Consider this statement – Some of the strongest stories have a main character that the audience cares about and roots for to achieve his or her goal.

Identifying the emergency in your story is one way to measure how well an audience is able to root for the main character. Think about some of your favorite stories. Why do you like them? Why do you want to see them succeed?

Let’s look at Cinderella again as an example. I indicated that the emergency is when something happens to the character that prompts them to go after their goal/want. For Cinderella, the emergency is the arrival of the invitation to the ball. Now, imagine her story without all of the scenes that occur before emergency (when the invitation to the ball arrives). If the audience is introduced to the character of Cinderella right at that moment, what do they know about her? In that scene, she is just someone trying to get to the ball, but why should the audience care whether or not Cinderella gets to go?

The exposition scenes before the invitation arrives are the key to the audience’s investment in Cinderella’s journey. Without the introduction to the evil stepfamily, the scenes of the horrible way that Cinderella is treated, and the display of Cinderella’s personality as she deals with these events, is what can lead an audience to care about the character and really root for her to find something better.

So, take a look at your play. What is the emergency? When does it occur? What happens beforehand? Make sure to give your audience plenty of time to get to know the main character and what everyday life is like for him or her. When the emergency arrives, the audience will want to see your character succeed almost as much as the character does!

Have fun and happy writing!

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

NJYPF 30-year history project

This week, Playwrights Theatre of NJ begins a project to catalogue the plays from the 30 year history of the New Jersey Young Playwrights Festival. We will be reaching out to winning playwrights from throughout that history. If you are a past NJYPF winner, or know of someone who was, please have them get in touch with us at We look forward to reconnecting!

Recognize anyone in the pictures below?

NJ Young Playwrights Festival 1994

NJ Young Playwrights Festival 1998

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Character Wants and Needs

Originally published on November 17, 2008

Now that you have become familiar with your character, it is time to put them into action. One way to do this is to focus on the character’s goals or, what it is that the character WANTS or NEEDS to achieve. To organize a story around this idea, I suggest trying the following organizer. Definitions of each term are provided, but we’ll take a look at an example a little further down the page.

CHARACTER – Character name goes here. You may also include any information from the Character Biography that you feel is important.

WANT/NEED – A better life.

What makes this day different from other days? Or… why does the character suddenly decide to go and get what they want/need?

OBSTACLES – People and things that stand in the character’s way.

ACTIONS – What the character does to get past the obstacles.

CONCLUSION – How the story ends.

Now, let’s take Cinderella as an example of a character.

The story of Cinderella has multiple versions, adaptations, and retellings, so when I have approached this in workshops everyone has a slightly different take on the story. (For three versions from the Russian, Chinese and Algonquin cultures, check out Cinderella: The World’s Favorite Fairytale by Lowell Swortzell.) To make things easier, we’ll go with a version that most people are likely familiar with - the Perrault/Disney version.

Cinderella wants, or it may be more appropriate to say that Cinderella NEEDS, a better life. She is trapped in a horrible home with a stepmother and stepsisters who demand that she do all of their work – cooking, cleaning, and making their clothes. It is an abusive situation and she needs to get out.

One day, a message arrives from the palace. The Prince is looking for a wife and plans a ball to which he is inviting all of the young women in the kingdom. Cinderella sees this as an opportunity to achieve her goal of a better life, but her Stepmother and Stepsisters prevent Cinderella from going. However, Cinderella gets help from her Fairy Godmother who magically transforms the animals and objects in the house into the coach, gown, and attendants who assist in getting Cinderella to the ball. However, this assistance comes with a catch. Cinderella must leave the ball by midnight. At that time, the magic will wear off and everything will turn back into what it once was.

So, Cinderella attends the ball, avoids being spotted by her Stepmother and Stepsisters, dances with the Prince, and leaves the palace just as the clock strikes midnight. However, she loses one of her glass slippers at the palace, which the Prince then uses to find her.

That’s enough information for us to go back to the organizer. Given that version of the story, I might fill things out in this way…

CHARACTER – Cinderella

WANT/NEED – A better life

EMERGENCY – The invitation to the ball asks for all young women to attend. Stepmother and the Stepsisters cannot overrule the Prince, so she has a chance to go to the ball, which just might offer her the opportunity to get a better life.

OBSTACLES – Stepmother, Stepsisters, Time.

Completes the tasks her Stepfamily gives her, Accepts help from the Fairy Godmother, Dances with the Prince, Returns home as the magic wears off, but now is disappointed.

We know how the classic versions of this story end, but I will leave the conclusion undecided to demonstrate that the story does not need to end one particular way. Depending upon the author/playwright’s theme, a story can end any number of ways, based on what the author wants the audience to learn. But we can get into theme another time.

Now back to your character. Try to place your character into this outline and see how the story might unfold. I encourage you to try some different versions by changing the character’s want, obstacles or action. How does that change the story? What do you think an audience might learn from each version of the story?

Another thing to consider is just as each character experiences obstacles along the way, they might also find help. Help can come in the form of people like Cinderella’s Fairy Godmother, or things like Dorothy’s ruby slippers, or information like a Jedi Padawan’s training in the ways of the Force. See what works for the story you want to tell.

Happy writing!

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Madison Young Playwrights Program begins today!

At 3:00 today, our 27th annual Madison Young Playwrights Program began with the group of students at the Madison Junior School. The elementary schools followed beginning their programs at 3:15. The start of a new young playwrights' season is is an exciting time of year for all of us at Playwrights Theatre. We look forward to all of the creative work that will be generated over the next three months!

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Advice to Young Playwrights, part 2 - Constantine Ligons

A few weeks ago, I asked some of the actors, directors, playwrights, readers, and teaching artists who have been associated with the NJ Young Playwrights Festival for their advice for young playwrights like you. This advice comes from Constantine Lignos, a NY-based actor/playwright who also was a NJ Young Playwrights Festival winner in 2006. Here is Constantine's response below... enjoy!

A strong play is universal. Anyone can relate to any character at any moment in the play. No matter how personal it may be for the playwright, audiences want to see something that they feel they have a visceral connection with, not just one writer's one-hour psychotherapy session. The writer needs to distance himself from the subject matter. To do this, he must delve so deeply into the experience that it is no longer about his own personal and emotional relationship to the matter, but how the world is affected by that aspect of human-ness.

I almost exclusively write strong roles for women. Women who are so down in the dumps that their ascension must be an act of power and control. To portray this in a way that would seem universal, I always add some abstraction to them. We can always universally relate to the abstractions of the imagination. Imagination is something we all share.

As an actor, I look for a fun challenge. A play that lets me push the boundaries of how a character should be played. It's never fun to do what you should do. We're allowed to break the rules as artists, so why don't we?

As a writer, I write plays that I know I won't get sick of in a few weeks. I almost always do get tired of them, though.

My advice would be to keep a journal. Always. And write in it every day. Write everything without hesitation. Also, never be afraid to write a scene, or a few bits of dialogue, instead of a whole play. You'd be surprised how those 4 lines you wrote can turn into a three-act play a few years down the road. When you're feeling down, write. When you're feeling great, write.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Making characters into people

(portions of this post were originally published on November 11, 2008)

Characters should function in the world of your play as a real person, or being, inside that world. They have certain ways of moving, thinking, and interaction with other people or beings, just as we all do in “reality.” Giving a character a name is a simple way to begin fleshing them out.

A few years ago, I led a playwriting workshop for teachers at the NJEA Convention in Atlantic City. Each of the participants completed a Self-Questionnaire similar to the one in the previous blog post. After that, I asked everyone to take their own name and recreate themselves as a new character by changing at least their last name… some changed both. (I learned this activity during a workshop run by Young Playwrights, Inc., an organization that runs an excellent national contest for young playwrights. I would encourage you to submit your play there, too - If you are stuck for a character idea, or a character name at least, this is a simple way to get started. Some of the names the Atlantic City group came up with were:

Jean Mercedes
Nicole Moodie
Fran Active
Fresca Visions
Calliope Sky

These names give a sense of something specific about the character. It could be a characteristic, a favorite color, an environment, and on and on... Do you have an idea of what some of these characters might be like? How old are each of these characters? What do they do for fun? Do they work? What kind of work might they do? What does each character want in life?

Another way to get deeper into a character is to use a Character Biography Sheet. In his book The Playwrights Process, Buzz McLaughlin provides samples of mini-form and long-form biographies. At Playwrights Theatre, we use an adaptation of his Mini-form biography that asks a playwright to consider the character's dreams, secrets, fears, and conflicts. These are all great places that might spark an interesting story idea.

I’ve often found that when I can envision my character I have an easier time writing for him or her. Then I write a description, or even a short (very short) story, to place that person in a location and to get a sense of how they move, think, and interact with others. This doesn’t need to be something that becomes part of the play, but just something that I can use to get a clearer sense of who the story is about and how they function. Once that is set, its time to give them something to want and a problem to face. More about that in a few days.

Happy writing!

Monday, August 27, 2012

"Write what you know"

(Originally posted October 20, 2008)

"Children want to write. They want to write the first day they attend school. This is no accident. Before they went to school they marked up walls, pavements, newspapers with crayons, chalk, pens or pencils... anything that makes a mark. The child's marks say, 'I am.'"
- from Writing: Teachers and Children at Work by Donald H. Graves

You may have heard people say that you should only "write what you know." What does that mean exactly? A lot of young writers get intimidated by this idea and believe that they don't know enough to write about whatever it is that interests them. That is simply not true. While it is important to know something about what you are writing, you will ultimately need to use your creativity and imagination to create the world in which the character lives and breathes. So, don't be afraid to write about that issue, that event, or that feeling that you are itching to get out. Writing is a way for you to tell the world what you're thinking and how you feel.

Strong writing is inspired by things that you are passionate about. Once you have identified an idea that you feel strongly about, draw from your experience and imagination to create a character and a world for that character to inhabit. Send them on a journey to accomplish something and see what happens. You can always go back later to do research about any experiences, time periods, or other facts that you are unsure about. These will be included in your revisions. But for now, to help you get started in generating story ideas, take a look at the following "Self-Questionnaire." This was adapted from a worksheet created by Dominique Cieri-Moore, a teaching artist with Playwrights Theatre.

Answer each of the questions about you. Be sure to include as much detail as possible.
  1. What is your full name?
  2. What are some nicknames you have? Who calls you these names?
  3. Where were you born?
  4. Is there a story about your birthday?
  5. Mother’s full name (including her Maiden name, if you know it)
  6. Father’s full name
  7. One grandparent’s full name
  8. Do you call anyone by a nickname? Who are these people? What do you call them? Why?
  9. Who do people tell you that you look like? (family member, someone famous?)
  10. What is important to you? What would you stand up and fight for?
  11. What gets you really angry?
  12. What is your biggest dream?
  13. What is unique about you?
  14. What or who do you admire? Why?
  15. Everyone has a life question. This is something that you’re dying to know. Someone is going to walk through the door in 20 seconds and answer this question. Quick! Don’t think about it, just write down the first question that comes to mind.
Hopefully there is an answer to one of these questions that has sparked an idea to jump start your writing. These are the same questions that you might ask your characters to get a deeper understanding of each of them. See where your answers take you and if you can create a character for your story, ask these same questions of that character.

Have fun writing!

Friday, August 24, 2012

Oldies, but goodies

The blog has been around for a while now, but it wasn't until I was doing some maintenance to the site this week that I noticed just how long it has been: four years! Wow, that time really flew!

There were some good and useful posts that haven't been seen in a while, so I am going to re-post a few in the coming weeks. I think you will find them helpful as you write and I look forward to hearing your thoughts about the ideas and suggestions that these posts contain.

The first will go up on Monday morning. Enjoy!

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

2013 Script submission deadlines announced

The script submission deadlines for the 2013 New Jersey Young Playwrights Festivals have been announced!

January 14 - plays for the High School division (grades 10-12)
January 15 - plays for the Junior HS (grades 7-9) and Elementary (grades 4-6) divisions

The preferred method of submission is by email. Please see the website for information about how to submit your script -

We look forward to receiving your play in January!

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Advice to Young Playwrights, part 1 - Arthur Wilson

A few weeks ago, I asked some of the actors, directors, playwrights, readers, and teaching artists who have been associated with the NJ Young Playwrights Festival for their advice for young playwrights like you. Specifically, I asked the following questions:

• What makes a strong play?
• What types of characters do you like to portray/write?
• What do you look for when choosing a play to work on?
• Please describe the best experience that you had working on a play.
• Please describe the worst experience that you had working on a play.
• What advice would you give to a young playwright currently working on a new play?

From now until the winter I will be posting some of these responses for your consideration as you work on your play for this year. We begin today with a response from Arthur Wilson, one of our master teaching artists, who was not only involved with the NJ Young Playwrights Festival during its earliest stages, but also with the first years of the national playwriting competition run by Young Playwrights, Inc out of New York City. Here is Arthur's response below... enjoy!


A strong play is based on something you the playwright has burning inside you
and you want to share it
(Catharsis, Dream, Imagination Sat On its' Head, Experience from something learned)
Characters that are not one dimensional and transform so the audience
experiences human growth, development, or stagnation
Poetic language moves a play beyond common language
but be careful -- the poetic language must communicate and not simply be a frill
The best experience I had working on a play
Having a team of Historians from Princeton University work collaboratively with the research
Rehearsing with a small cast capable of honesty for cuts, bridges, and clarity
Rewriting without having a need to hold onto every word or phrase
simply because I wrote it -- FLEXIBILITY
The worst experience I had working on a play was not having enough time to rehearse
Often budgets require miracles
Young Playwrights working on a play RIGHT NOW


Thursday, August 9, 2012

Follow the NJYPF on Facebook

Did you know that you can follow all of the action of the New Jersey Young Playwrights Festival on Facebook? Visit us at and click to like the page. You can get the blog posts there as well as additional information as the contest and festival unfold throughout the year.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Life's mysteries

History is full of stories written to explore and explain some of life's mysteries. How was the world created? Why do birds fly? If a tree falls in the woods, does it make a sound? These questions, and others like these, lie at the heart of our cultures, religion, and philosophy, and have inspired experiments in art and science.

Some of the most compelling plays that we've received at the NJ Young Playwrights Festival have explored mysterious questions like these - sometimes on a grand, global scale; sometimes in more familiar surroundings. In fact, some of my favorite submissions have explored the questions: What would happen if I could stop time? What exists in the water under Niagara Falls? What happens behind the faculty room door?

Questions like these give a great starting point for you to begin a story, but can also be useful to move a story forward. What mysteries are you curious about? Maybe there's a story in your answer!

Happy writing!

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Challenge yourself

Wow! Where did the last two weeks go? I can't believe it has been so long since the last post. We're busy, busy, bust creating new plays every day with the students at the Summer Theatre Camp at Playwrights Theatre. I had planned to write every 7-10 days, but must've gotten wrapped up in the fun. It can be easy to loose track of time like that, which is why it is helpful to put aside some time each day to spend on your writing. Even a few minutes can make a difference, which is why I'd like to share a writing challenge begun today by young adult lit author, Laurie Halse Anderson. I thought this might be a great way to stay inspired to write your play through these last few weeks of summer and even into the school year!

Ms. Anderson is the author of books for teens like Speak, Fever 1793, and Wintergirls, among others. On her website this morning, she launched her 5th annual Write 15 Minutes a Day Challenge. You can find more information here - As she says on the site, there will be a new post each day meant to inspire writing. You can follow along with her posts, or you can simply make the commitment to write for 15 minutes (or more... or less...) a day!

Please feel free to share your progress in the comments section for the blog posts here at NJ Young Playwrights. If you've already begun, it would be great to hear what you have been working on so far.

Happy writing!

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Let's get ready to rumble... er... write!

You may not be a wrestling fan, but the phrase is probably familiar to you: “Let’s get ready to rumbllllllllllllllllle!” Today we’re just a little under six months until the submission deadline for the 2013 New Jersey Young Playwrights Festival and its time to get writing. Specific dates and details about the 30th anniversary installment of the Festival will be posted in the coming months, but for now the best thing to do if you’re thinking about submitting a play is to get started!

There may be some of you who have an idea and are ready to dive right in, but there are others of you who may be struggling to get started. Maybe you have a lot of ideas and don’t know which to choose. Or maybe the opposite is true and you just can’t think of a thing. These are common blocks that affect every writer at some point in time. The important thing when you are struggling is to pick something and start writing. You don’t necessarily need to start with the play itself – just put pen to paper or fingers to keyboard and let the ideas flow.

No matter where you are with an idea it may help to jot down a few ideas in a list, or an outline, or a synopsis. What are you interested in? What ideas come to mind when you think about a story? What kinds of plays do you like to see – OR – what kinds of stories do you like to read? Do you have an idea for a plot, or a character? (or both?) What do you want to say about the world, or to the world? What is important to you? Whatever you have in mind, wherever your brain takes you, get those ideas down on paper and see what happens. Before long you may find that you are developing an idea for a play that you feel passionate about – something that moves you deeply.

Over the next few months, I will share some ideas for writing your play from beginning to end. I hope that some of these suggestions will be helpful to you as you write, but please know that not everything that is mentioned here may work for you. There is more than one way to write a play and it is important that you figure out what works for you and what works for the story that you want to tell. With this in mind, I’ve asked a number of the playwrights, directors, actors, and other theatre folks who work with Playwrights Theatre of NJ and the NJ Young Playwrights Festival to share some of their thoughts about plays with you. I’m collecting their ideas now and will post them to the blog along with writing tips and ideas. I encourage you to share your ideas and your progress by commenting on the posts as we go. I can also be reached at if you have any comments that you don’t want to share publicly, or to answer any questions that you might have.

I look forward to getting started with you and to seeing the finished pieces in January.

Happy writing!

Friday, July 6, 2012

Presentation of Summer Playwriting Workshop scenes

Our three summer playwrights worked on two individual projects during this past two-week session. First, a short scene for which each playwright collaborated with two or three students from the Acting Workshop class. The second project, is a longer piece which each playwright is writing independently.

The summer playwriting class reading and critique each other's plays.

The short scenes were presented by the acting class during a final presentation this morning. Pictures from the presentation are to the left.

The longer scenes are currently in progress, but the playwrights have been encouraged to continue writing throughout the summer with the end goal of submitting the scripts to the 2013 New Jersey Young Playwrights Festival.

 On the last day of camp, the playwrights read the current draft of each classmate's script and answered basic questions provided by the author. While this is a bit earlier in the writing process than I might have liked, the playwrights enjoyed hearing other people read and respond to their work. In fact, hearing the acting class read their work was the most impactful part of the session for them. Over the next few weeks, I will read each draft and provide my own feedback, but I also hope the playwrights will continue to send drafts to me throughout the summer. Each has done remarkable work and I cannot wait to see how the plays turn out down the road!

Monday, June 25, 2012

Summer playwriting

Today begins our Summer Theatre Camp at Playwrights Theatre. For this first session, we have seven acting students and three playwriting students. The classes are working separately throughout the morning, but will come together toward the end of the session to collaborate on short scenes that will be presented as part of the acting class' final presentation. This is the first time that we are trying this arrangement with the camp classes and look forward to sharing some of that work here.

What are your plans this summmer?

Friday, June 15, 2012

2012 Reader feedback delivered

Please note that as of June 13, the reader feedback for all plays in the 2012 New Jersey Young Playwrights Festival have been delivered. These were sent to the email address provided by playwrights in the online registration form. In cases where playwright or parent emails were not provided, the feedback was sent to a teacher, principal, or other school contact.

If you do not receive your feedback, please contact the Festival at with "2012 feedback" in the subject line.


Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Performance of work by students at Madison High School

On May 11, we presented a staged reading of selected works generated during a playwriting residency conducted by Playwrights Theatre at Madison High School. Carolyn Hunt, who led the residency, also directed the presentation. Here is a link to the article in the Madison High School paper about that event and some of the playwrights whose work was performed.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Congratulations to the playwrights!

Congratulations to all of the playwrights involved in the 2012 NJ Young Playwrights Festival! Last night, we wrapped up the program with the presentation of the 4 winning plays from the High School Division and a brief ceremony to honor all of the division finalists. Unfortunately, pictures are not available at this time, but should be up later in the week.

This was an especially engaging group of plays and we all were so pleased to have been a part of their production.

Thank you again to all of the young playwrights who submitted their work. Feedback from our readers will continue to be emailed to students throughout the next two weeks. We hope that this will be useful should a writer plan to continue working on that play, or in preparation for a new script to submit next year.

Happy writing!

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Second rehearsal and Junior HS/Elementary performances

Another fun day yesterday with a split rehearsal schedule. The first couple of hours were spent blocking out the high school plays, but the main focus of the afternoon was the Junior HS/Elementary presentation.

The junior high and elementary plays are presented as a reading with actors performing at music stands at the front of the stage. The biggest challenges in staging this type of presentation are deciding what stage directions are needed to tell what can't be shown and then managing the traffic of actors from their seats to the stands. It's nice to have a little movement to accentuate the work the actors' vocal and physical performances.

Some pictures from the tech rehearsal for the Junior HS/Elementary performance are to the right.

The evening performance was very well attended. We were fortunate this year to have the opportunity to recognize not only the playwrights whose work was being produced, but also the other playwrights who plays made it to the final round of judging. Certificates were presented to all of the division finalists and to the schools of the winning playwrights. Pictures of those groups are at the bottom of this post.

Today we'll wrap up rehearsals for the High School plays and present those at 7:00 pm. There is still some room left if you haven't made a reservation yet. Please come out and join us to support the incredible work of these playwrights!
The Junior HS Division finalists with their teachers and the cast.

The Elementary Division finalists and the cast.

Monday, May 21, 2012

First day of rehearsal for the 2012 NJ Young Playwrights Festival

Yesterday was an exciting and very busy day of first rehearsals for the New Jersey Young Playwrights Festival. We began with a read through of the plays from the Junior HS and Elementary divisions and spent the afternoon with the high school plays. It is always fun to meet the playwrights and connect faces and personalities with plays. We also enjoy having the chance to talk with the playwrights about their plays - the inspirations behind them, the subtexts, etc.

We're back at it again this afternoon. First, we will continue blocking the high school plays and then transition into a very loose tech for the Junior HS and Elementary plays ahead of the readings at 7:00 pm tonight!

We have received a number of requests for reservations for tonight. Still a good amount of seats, so please do join us! 7:00 pm at the University Center Little Theatre at Kean University.

Here are just a few pictures from the high school rehearsal. Additional pictures can be found on our Facebook page at We have a few from the earlier read through as well, but don't have them downloaded yet. Should do so soon. In the meantime, enjoy!

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Guest blogger - Summer Dawn Hortillosa, 2007 Winner of the NJ Young Playwrights Festival

Over the past year, we've been fortunate to reconnect with some of our former NJ Young Playwrights participants and have witnessed some of the excellent work that they are currently doing. In advance of our next Festival experience tomorrow, I thought it would be great for us to hear from one of our alumnae about her experiences and current projects.

Please welcome our guest blogger, Summer Dawn Hortillosa, whose play The Not-So-Lovely Tale of Strawberry Fructose was featured in the 2007 Festival, our first in co-production with Premiere Stages @ Kean University. Summer offers some excellent insight into the possibilities of creative life in the "real world" for a young artist and helpful suggestions for our current batch of playwrights.


My name is Summer Dawn Hortillosa and I'm a 21-year-old playwright and journalist from Jersey City. In 2007, I won the New Jersey Young Playwrights Contest with my fractured fairy tale comedy, The Not-So-Lovely Tale of Strawberry Fructose. Recently, I directed a production of the latest play I've written, Secrets; Love, which was selected for the Downtown Urban Theater Festival (DUTF) in New York City.

Simply winning the contest doesn't necessarily launch you into the world of theater, but PTNJ offers valuable experience and inspiration for many young playwrights, including myself.

Secrets; Love lead actress and Assistant Director Liliane Wolf,
DUTF Artistic Director Reginald Gaines
and Summer Hortillosa at the opening night of DUTF.
There was something so magical about seeing my characters come to life, feeling the energy buzzing in the room because of my words and hearing the audience laugh at my jokes. I saw my idea completely realized - it grew in my brain, budded on the page and was born on the stage. Many young playwrights don't ever get this chance; it's something every festival selection's writer should savor.
After the festival, I decided I wanted to be involved in theater in any way I could and ended up being involved in six productions that year - writing, directing, producing, acting, whatever I could.

To succeed, I had to take things I learned from the festival - how the audience's eye follows movement, how actors are sensitive to criticism, and that a line is funniest when the characters don't realize how funny it is.

I try to take everything I learned from all these productions and put them into whatever my latest project is. For example, Secrets; Love was a passionate crime drama about a man whose wife and best friend are kidnapped and how his daughter and next-door neighbor get to the bottom of some mysterious events.  

Detective Williams (John Stevens), the Reporter (Katie Colaneri)
and forensic examiner Mira Woldmichael (Alexandra Poncelet Del Sole)
listen as the Prosecutor (Max Zawlocki) delivers his closing statement.
Doug Bauman: photo.

Marcus (Stan Guingon) and his wife Rizalia (Siouxsie Suarez) have an intense argument.
Doug Bauman: photo.
Without everything I learned in the festival and in the other productions I've worked on, I don't think I would've been quite as equipped to write a play worthy of getting into any festival, much less DUTF, which just celebrated its 10th anniversary.

While directing, I keep in mind things I learned from participating in PTNJ's read-through of my play and from watching it. For example - in 2007, I asked that an actor reading something differently instead of speaking to the director. They told me that actors are very sensitive and that notes should only be given by the director. Even then, the director must respect the actor and focus on what better fits the character and the scene, not what the actor is doing "wrong." Today, I try to word my notes carefully and make sure my actors know I'm not doubting their talents - I just want what's most suitable for the scene.

For those fortunate enough to win and participate in PTNJ's contest and festival, I recommend paying keen attention to the production process. You'll only get a glimpse of it (there's a lot more behind-the-scenes stuff many of the playwrights don't see) but whatever you can witness - soak it in and store it away.

For more information about Summer Dawn Hortillosa, visit her arts, writing and photo blog or follow her on Twitter @SummerHort. For more on her play, visit

And remember that you can follow along with the Festival this week on this blog, but also on Twitter @PTNJ and on Facebook at

Tweeting the Festival

Tomorrow we hold the first rehearsals for the 2012 NJ Young Playwrights Festival and I will be tweeting throughout the day. Playwrights Theatre's Twitter handle is @PTNJ and I will be including #njypf on all tweets. Please check it out and share your thoughts!

Friday, May 18, 2012

5 Questions with Sam Gelman

Our final playwright is a familiar face...

Sam Gelman
The Pingry School, Martinsville
Last year, we presented Sam's play, For the Sake of America: A Story of Patriotism at the New Jersey Young Playwrights Festival. This year, Sam's play is Monster. It features Charlie, a business journalist whose interview with Howard Morgan, a former CFO now serving time for fraud, challenges Charlie's perceptions of ethics and doing what is right.

1. What inspired you to write Monster?

Last year, while I was working on building the set for my school's musical Guys & Dolls, I fell off an 8-foot platform and broke my wrist. I remember sitting in the hand doctor's office, waiting to be called in, and reading a magazine. The magazine had an interview with Bernie Maddoff. It started off typically-he talked about being poor, antisemitism he faced, how he became who he was-and I thought the whole thing would end with a plea for understanding. But it didn't. Maddoff told the interviewer he knew what he did was wrong, and he didn't want pity, just understanding. That fascinated me. So I came up with a backstory for the interviewer and created a fictionalized version of Maddoff, and started writing.

2. You will be attending Princeton next year. Are you planning on majoring in theatre or writing?

Unfortunately, Princeton does not have a theater major. However, I intend on minoring in theater, probably in playwriting, and getting involved in as much student produced theater as possible, which I am happy to say has a really large presence on campus.

3. Which do you enjoy most: writing, acting or directing?

Each has a completely different feel, and I love all 3 for various reasons. As of now, my love is between playwriting and acting. Both have more immediate forms of expression than directing, and both give me little thrills from portraying what I see and telling the audience the truth.

4. Do you prefer writing one-acts or full-length plays?

I don't really prefer writing any length of play-I try to write the play as long as it needs to be. I will say that writing full-length plays is more of a challenge, and time consuming, but it is a lot of fun. In some ways, I like full-length plays more, as I get to spend more time with the characters, and see how much they change.

5. If you could be any super hero, who would you be and why?

Oh, that's easy. Superman. He's got it all-invincibility, flight, x-ray vision, strength, plus the writing gig for the newspaper. I feel like that would be a lot of fun.

Monster will be presented with the three other winners of the High School Division of the NJ Young Playwrights Festival on Tuesday, May 22 at 7:00 p.m. Junior HS and Elementary plays will be presented on Monday, May 21. Both performances will take place at 7:00 p.m. in the University Center Little Theatre, Kean University. Tickets are free, but reservations are highly suggested (

Thursday, May 17, 2012

5 Questions with Alina Sodano

Our third high school playwright is...

Alina Sodano
Bergen County Academies, Hackensack
Alina's play - Disneyland - takes place in the Disney Outlet Store in Paramus, an enchanting place that brings together two souls in need of a little magic.

1. What inspired you to write Disneyland?

I took a trip to the Disney store to buy my friend a present and I overheard two people having a job interview. The interviewer asked the interviewee who their favorite Disney character was, and the young man hesitantly responded, “Simba.” I was shocked to hear that question being asked at an interview and I thought his hesitant response was quite funny. This interview inspired me to write a Disney themed play and parts of the interview are found as dialogue in Disneyland!

2. You mentioned in your bio you enjoy taking science courses and playwriting. Do you think this makes you both left and right brained?

I think so! I like thinking both creatively and analytically.

3. Have you been to Disneyland or Disney World? If both, do you prefer one over the other? If only one, do you plan to visit the other?

I have been to Disney World in Florida before but I would love to visit Disneyland in California as well. From what I’ve heard, each theme park has a slightly different feel to it, so it would be interesting to explore both places.

4. What is your favorite book and why?

My favorite book is The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein. I read it as a young girl and the book's message continues to resonate with me.

5. If you could tour with any band or singer, who would that be?

I would choose to go on tour with my new favorite band called Fun.

Disneyland will be presented with the three other winners of the High School Division of the NJ Young Playwrights Festival on Tuesday, May 22 at 7:00 p.m. Junior HS and Elementary plays will be presented on Monday, May 21. Both performances will take place at 7:00 p.m. in the University Center Little Theatre, Kean University. Tickets are free, but reservations are highly suggested (

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

5 Questions with Isabelle Ingato

Meet our next playwright...

Isabelle Ingato
Toms River High School East, Toms River
Isabelle's play - Must-Read - is about three brothers who are in the run, but have stopped on a bridge in upstate New York. The oldest brother, George, refuses to go any further until he can finish a book that he is almost done reading. However, the police, time, and nature are quickly catching up to them.

1. What inspired you to write Must-Read?

Originally, I was writing another as-yet-unfinished play about the meeting of a famous but reclusive novelist and the actress/playwright who portrays the novelist’s younger self in a new production. I was trying to come up with ideas for the play that that character would be writing; I wanted to include a scene of this play within the other play. In between typing, my eye somehow turned to a title on my bookshelf that read 501 Must-Reads, and I began to think about the implications of the word “must” and its strange, almost frighteningly commanding presence, even when attached to what most consider a leisure activity. Likely influenced by the Great Depression era we were studying in my AP US History course, I imagined two displaced workers sitting just before train tracks – one was considering his options and the other was determined to read the last few pages of a book. I wanted loneliness to play a big part in it, so I wondered how the book could gradually become more important to George than Ryan’s presence throughout the play. The two men developed into three young brothers in New York because of the impact reading had on my young adulthood.

2. Are any of your characters based on you?

None of my characters are based on me. I think I incorporated some of my own questions and fears into the characters, but overall their traits and especially their reactions don’t match up with my own personality. George, in his incredible love of reading, was partially influenced by my mom’s own passion for books and film.

3. You will be going to the Sewanee Young Writers’ Conference playwriting workshop at the University of the South this summer. What do you hope to gain from the experience?

This summer I will be attending both the Sewanee Young Writers’ Conference for playwriting and the Iowa Young Writer’s Studio for fiction (back to back for four weeks). I hope to gain more knowledge about proper formatting and use of stage directions within a play. Also, I would like to learn more about writing comedies (rather than dramas, which most of my plays currently are). I am excited to meet and hear readings from authors like the amazing Kevin Wilson, who wrote Tunneling to the Center of the Earth and The Family Fang. Last summer, I attended the Juniper Institute for Young Writers for fiction, where I made many creative and inspiring friends; I hope I will be able to make more connections with fellow young writers this summer.

4. In your bio you mention that you are Secretary of the Raider Compost Initiative where you learned to use a drill. Do you help around the house with home improvement projects?

I included that note (“where she learned to use a drill”) in order to hopefully balance out the fact that bios are usually so long and tedious. I am very involved in a number of community service activities, and I became a founding member and Secretary of the Raider Compost Initiative’s Compost Management Committee this year. I really love this club because, although helping to preserve the environment is its central goal, an equally significant part of it is students’ self-organization, management, and club promotion, rather than a teacher-advisor based system of organization governance. It may have been natural for me to sign up for the Information Committee of this initiative (there are five central student committees within it), but I decided to sign up for the most physically demanding committee (whose tasks include compost set-up and maintenance) in order to take a leap and learn new skills, like using a drill and balancing the organic elements in the compost pile.

5. What movie could you watch over and over again?

In all honesty, although it is not necessarily my favorite film, the movie that I watch constantly is Roman Holiday, which stars Audrey Hepburn.

Must-Read will be presented with the three other winners of the High School Division of the NJ Young Playwrights Festival on Tuesday, May 22 at 7:00 p.m. Junior HS and Elementary plays will be presented on Monday, May 21. Both performances will take place at 7:00 p.m. in the University Center Little Theatre, Kean University. Tickets are free, but reservations are highly suggested (