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 (

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

5 Questions with Emma Hathaway

We're less than a week away from the 29th annual New Jersey Young Playwrights Festival, so we thought we'd start celebrating now with a few questions with each of the high school playwrights about their work.

We start with....
Emma Hathaway
Bergen County Academies, Hackensack
Emma's play - The Mystery Madame of 110 and Broadway - is about Emily, a 20-something New Yorker who is at the Chipotle on 110 & Broadway very early in the morning wearing a wedding dress. She is preparing for her wedding, which will take place later that day. She has spent years making the arrangements for this moment save for one thing - the groom!

1. What inspired you to write The Mystery Madame of 110 and Broadway?

When I was thinking of ideas for a play, I remembered someone telling me that they had once heard of a person who planned their entire wedding day even before they had found a husband. I began to play with this idea, and combined with my love for Chipotle and eccentric personalities and the fact that I find Zumba to be hilarious, The Mystery Madame began to take shape.

2. In addition to writing, you also play violin, act, sing and dance. Are you planning a career in the arts?

While I'm not certain yet whether or not I want to pursue the arts professionally, I'm confident that they'll always be a part of my life in some way. I'm also very interested in history and literature and humanities research along those lines, but no matter what I choose in the end (choosing careers is scary!), I know I will always be singing, playing violin, and writing because that's when I'm happiest and where my heart lies.

3. Have you written other pieces other than this play? If so, what?

I wrote a play in 7th and 8th grade - both quirky comedies that I'm not sure made any real sense to anyone but myself. But after I came to high school, I didn't make as much time to write, and this play was the first full piece that I finished since freshmen year, which was really fun for me.

4. What did you enjoy most about writing this play?

My favorite part about writing this play was developing John and Emily's characters and the relationship between the two of them through their conversations. Once I had a solid grasp of each of their characters and how they interacted with each other, it was so much fun to see where their dialogue took me.

5. What is your favorite ice cream flavor?

My favorite ice cream flavor is Coconut Dream. They sell it at an ice cream shop in my town - chocolate, coconut, and almonds in vanilla ice cream. So. Good.

The Mystery Madame of 110 and Broadway 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 (