Toms River High School East, Toms River
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 (firstname.lastname@example.org)