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