Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Advice to Young Playwrights Revisted!

Reposting one of our all-time most popular entries today. This debuted on the blog December 1, 2012 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.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Submission Reminder!

Our Title Page Information database shows that we may have 105 entries to the 2014 NJ Young Playwrights Festival so far; however, we have not received anywhere near as many scripts. If you are submitting work to the Festival, please remember that you must register online AND send us your script via email. Contact us for help, if needed. Thanks!

Monday, November 25, 2013

Call for Readers and Actors

We're looking for READERS and ACTORS for the upcoming young playwrights festivals at Playwrights Theatre of NJ. Please contact us if you are interested via the following online survey:

Any questions? Send an email to


Thursday, November 21, 2013

Rethinking "Write What You Know"

Whenever I log in to the blog for a new post, I like to see which older posts have been viewed and what our "all-time" top entries are. One of our most popular entries is one entitled "Write What You Know", which originally premiered on October 20, 2008 and was re-posted last August 27, 2012. You can link to those entries by clicking the dates, but before you do, I wanted to share something else about the idea of "what you know" that has been brewing in my mind for the past few days.

Students often are told "write what you know", which seems simple enough, but a number of young playwrights in our workshops feel pressured by this advice. Sometimes they want to write about a topic, an event, place, or person that they know very little about. This knowledge can be gained by a little reading and research, of course. However, one thing that I always ask young writers to keep in mind is that, even if it is based in reality, or history, what they are writing is also a piece of fiction. That fiction stems from their imagination (something that we don't often connect with knowledge) and I believe that if you can imagine it, then you know it. An example of this may be with a science-fiction, or fantasy play. That world exists in a writer's mind and the writer needs to know a lot about it and how it works in order to accurately share it with an audience. Again, the advice is "write what you know", but a little less pressure involved.

Not everyone wants to write a sci-fi/fantasy play, of course. No matter what the genre, it is helpful for playwrights to know about themselves - their background, sure, but also things that spark their imaginations and emotions. The older posts that I have linked above include a self-reflection tool that our young playwrights have found useful when first thinking about their plays, or looking for some inspiration during revision. Give it a look and see what ideas might be sparked in you as you begin, or continue, your writing.

We can't wait to see the results...

Happy writing!

Monday, November 18, 2013

Guest lecture at NYU

This evening I'm talking to the Drama in Education class at NYU's Program in Educational Theatre about young playwrights festivals across the United States. There will be plenty of words and images from the NJ Young Playwrights Festival throughout!

Friday, November 15, 2013

An excerpt from About to Pop! by Ben Muzi (2009)

Some inspiration from About to Pop! by Ben Muzi (NJYPF 2009).

About to Pop! follows Andy, a high school senior, whose excitement about the future as expressed through a class project are gravely misinterpreted by the adults in his life. Below is the poem that sparks the controversy that almost derails Andy's plans. He speaks this poem at the end of the play.


Searching for a life.
Discovering & imagining.
Building my concerto.
Keeping on the map.
Free to touch
briefly upon the mosaic.
Ready to go-
Because I am about to pop!
Andy (Jeff Ronan) sharing his poem with the audience at the end of About to Pop! (2009)

Monday, November 11, 2013

Throwback to 1992

Our Throwback Thursday picture... a few days later. This one is from the NJ Young Playwrights Festival in 1992.
From L to R: John Pietrowski, Artistic Director for PTNJ; Bethany (Schultz) Larsen; Joel R. Johnson; Dailyn Rodriguez; Jasmine (Suwa) Slowik; Jim Peskin, 1992 Festival Producer.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Get going!

Originally posted on the blog: July 17, 2012.

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 2014 New Jersey Young Playwrights Festival and its time to get writing. Specific dates and details about the 31st 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. 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!

Thursday, November 7, 2013

NJ Emerging Women Playwrights Project

Recently, Playwrights Theatre of NJ launched the NJ Emerging Women Playwrights Project "to provide meaningful support" to playwrights through a long-term commitment that emphasizes the needs of the individual writers in the development of their work. The pilot season was staged in 2011-2012 with Lia Romeo, Carrie Louise Nutt, Dominique Cieri, and Dania Ramos as the playwrights-in-residence. For the current season, PTNJ will develop new works by EM Lewis, Claire Porter, and Yasmine Rana.

For general information about the NJ Emerging Women Playwrights Project visit the website at this link.

For regular updates about the program, visit the new blog at this link.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Revolutionary Plays

We've just recently updated the guidelines for the 2014 New Jersey Young Playwrights Festival with information about a new division for this year: Revolutionary Plays!

For the 2014 season of the New Jersey Young Playwrights Festival (NJYPF), Playwrights Theatre of New Jersey (PTNJ) will commemorate the 350th anniversary of the founding of the state of New Jersey with a special submission category called “Revolutionary Plays”. 

The Revolutionary Plays category will be open to NJ students grades 4-12. Script submission and formatting guidelines are the same as the general categories of the NJYPF, with the exception that the subject matter relates to specific people, places, and events from New Jersey’s role in the American Revolution. For the purpose of this project, we will consider the Revolutionary period to be from 1765 to 1787. 

Submissions to the Revolutionary Plays must be inspired by New Jersey’s Revolutionary War history. While we are interested in unique takes on historical plays, historical drama is certainly encouraged, but not required, for submission. 

Playwrights should research their subject and, if possible, conduct on-site research at an historic Revolutionary area site in New Jersey and/or to speak with an interpreter or historian. The website of The Crossroads of the American Revolution ( will be a helpful tool in discovering historic sites in the various regions of the state. You also may find information through the National, State, and County Parks websites. 

We recommend visiting sites that host interpretive and encourage you to check with area libraries for artifacts with local significance that they might have in their collections.   

Submission and Selection Process Scripts should be submitted online via the NJYPF website ( by the January deadline. Script readers from PTNJ will adjudicate the Revolutionary Plays for artistic merit in accordance with the general procedure for the contest. Select scripts will get a second look by additional readers from the theatre and historical communities who may determine the winners.   

Performances Winning plays will be given staged-readings during the annual NJ Young Playwrights Festival in spring 2014. Additional plans to stage readings of plays at historical sites are also possible, given the subject matter or setting of the winning plays.   

The winning playwrights in the Revolutionary Plays division will each receive a $100 Savings Bond, and the students’ schools will receive a $50 Gift Card towards the purchase of books for their school library.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Beginning again

Another school year means another season of the NJ Young Playwrights Festival! We hope that you enjoyed your summer break and that the new school year has been kind. There is still some clean up work to do from last year's contest, but we have already opened the submission process for the 2014 program. What are you going to write about? No time like the present to get started!

If you are still waiting for critiques, thank you so much for your patience! Those will be mailed by the end of September.


Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Summer playwriting

Our summer playwrights are back at it during these final two weeks of August. I'm working with two young playwrights on their new one-act plays, which have quickly taken off from ideas to multiple pages in a few short days. Looking forward to getting full drafts by the start of next week and to involving some actors in the revision process.

Oh, and we're working on some exciting news about the 2014 NJ Young Playwrights Festival. Details coming soon!

Tuesday, May 28, 2013


Junior HS and Elementary playwrights
High School playwrights
Congratulations again to the playwrights! We had a wonderful time producing your work. Thank you for sharing it with all of us. Please check our Facebook page for additional pictures from the 2013 New Jersey Young Playwrights Festival. Guidelines for the 2014 contest will be posted this summer.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

2013 Festival is underway!

Aaron Kaplan in a scene from Blues-Berries by Philip Peker
Today began rehearsals for the 30th annual New Jersey Young Playwrights Festival! The day started with a reading of plays from the Junior HS and Elementary divisions followed by readings and blocking rehearsal for the high school plays. We were thrilled to have 7 of our 10 playwrights present today and look forward to working with them throughout the week.

Here are just a few glimpses into today's action:
Director Dania Ramos (left) works with Chaelee Chaput, Cara Ganski, and Tarshai Peterson (l-r) on a scene from You Definitely Got All That From Your Mother by Emma Iacometta.
Things got a little painful for Seth Jambor during rehearsal for Good News! by Philip Anastassiou

A moment from Mirror by Kelsey Garrett (l-r Cara Ganski and Chaelee Chaput)

See more pictures in the NJYPFestival 2013 album on our Facebook page (no need to be a Facebook member to see!).

Friday, May 17, 2013

Festival starts in a few days!

We're excited to begin rehearsing for the Festival on Sunday. We have a great cast and creative staff in place and are excited to bring such imaginative work to life. Stay tuned to this page and our Facebook and Twitter feeds for updates through the Festival!

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Results of the 2013 NJ Young Playwrights Festival

We are proud to present to you the winning plays/playwrights of the 2013 New Jersey Young Playwrights Festival! The following plays will be presented during the Festival in May.

High School Division
  • You Definitely Got All That from Your Mother by Emma Iacometta, 11th grade, Bergen County Academies
  • Mirror by Kelsey Garrett, 11th grade, Middletown High School South
  • Blues-Berries by Philip Peker, 11th grade, Livingston Senior High School
  • Good News! By Philip Anastassiou, 11th grade, Bergen County Academies

Junior High School Division
  • We’re Sisters by Christine Vapsva, 9th grade, Union County Academy for Performing Arts, Scotch Plains
  • Untitled by Emma Ohlig, 9th grade, Union County Academy for Performing Arts, Scotch Plains
  • An Obstacle Worth Facing by Lindsay Gerrato, 8th grade, Columbia Middle School, Berkeley Heights

Elementary Division
  • A Tale of Two Kitties by Matthew Sidorovich, 5th grade, Lafayette Elementary School, Chatham
  • Bully Days by Zachary Vincent, 4th grade, St. Vincent Martyr School, Madison
  • It All Happened in 24 Hours by Anna Gregory, 4th grade, Lafayette Elementary School, Chatham

Congratulations to all of the playwrights who submitted their work to the Festival this year. We received a large number of good plays and had a great time reading them, but a difficult time selecting those to be performed.

We encourage everyone to attend the Festival readings on May 20 (Junior HS and Elementary plays) and May 21 (High School plays) in the University Center Little Theatre on the campus of Kean University in Union, NJ. Performances will begin promptly at 7:00 pm. While the events are free, reservations are highly suggested, due to limited space available. Please contact the Education Office at Playwrights Theatre to make your reservation today - 973-514-1787, ext. 21 or

Stay tuned for updates about the Festival throughout the next four weeks!

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Winners will be annouced soon!

Apologies for the delayed annoucement. I have been out on family leave for the past three weeks and have only returned to the office today. I want to confirm information with one playwright before a formal annoucement is made. We should be able to do that tomorrow. Stay tuned!

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Final judging begins this week!

The 2013 NJ Young Playwrights Festival has moved into the final round of judging today. Of the 328 plays received, 33 have been forwarded to our Selection Panel for their consideration. Panelists will read those plays over the next few weeks and winning playwrights will be contacted by the end of the month.

However, our sincerest congratulations to everyone who wrote a play and submitted it to the Festival. Congratulations on your excellent work!

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Rolling along

This weekend we will begin the second round of script reading for the New Jersey Young Playwrights Festival. Our readers have been saying wonderful things about how impressed they have been with your scripts and how much fun it has been to read them!

Thursday, January 24, 2013

We're underway!

Submissions to the New Jersey Young Playwrights Festival exceeded our expectations for the year. We couldn't be happier! Scripts are now on their way out to readers and we look forward to the selection process ahead.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013


The submission deadline for the 2013 New Jersey Young Playwrights Festival is now passed.

Congratulations on your work! Take a break. Get some rest. We will start reading scripts next week.

Updates to follow.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Junior HS and Elementary plays due today

Arrived this morning to find that we've received half the number of scripts that were submitted to us last year, which is very exciting! Please keep them coming in...

A reminder that today is the deadline for play submissions from students in grades 4-9. Scripts must be received by 11:59 pm in order to be eligible for this year's contest. See the website for the two-step submission process:

Monday, January 14, 2013

High school plays due today

Today is the deadline for play submissions from students in grades 10-12. Scripts must be received by 11:59 pm in order to be eligible for this year's contest. See the website for the two-step submission process:

(Students in grades 4-9 you have until 11:59 pm tomorrow!)

Sunday, January 13, 2013

One day more!

One day more until the first submission deadline for the NJ Young Playwrights Festival (grades 10-12 only; those of you in grades 4-9 have until Tuesday).

A little inspiration from the Les Mis 10th Anniversary cast in concert at Royal Albert Hall in London.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Advice for young playwrights, Part 6

The final installment of our advice series comes from playwright/teacher/NJYPFestival script reader, Kelby Siddons. Enjoy!

What makes a strong play?

At least two of the following, usually all three: compelling characters, strong structure, poetic language and/or action.

What types of characters do you like to write?

I like to write characters in a state of becoming, which leads me to teen characters who are smart, funny, caring, and driven but have doubts, (in)experiences, and relationships that challenge them.

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

As a director, I look for a play that fascinates and rewards me, and by extension, the audience. Sometimes the reward is big laughs, sometimes it's important, unresolved questions. I'll always gravitate more towards the play that gives me both those things.

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

I directed an ensemble in Shakespeare's As You Like It, and it was wonderful because of how clearly complicated things become and the fact that each actor had an integral role to play in all those comic complications. In terms of structure, Shakespeare is the ultimate to borrow from.

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

As a Kangaroo in  Peter Pan, I was completely expendable. To paraphrase Jose Rivera, write parts that actors want to play.

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

Ask yourself where the Fear and Love are in your play and your characters' lives. If you have one without the other, there's no conflict. Drama is created when these two dance.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

One week to go, too!

If you are in grades 4-9, then at 11:59 pm today there will be exactly one week left for you to submit your play to the NJ Young Playwrights Festival!

Monday, January 7, 2013

One week to go!

If you are in grades 10-12, then at 11:59 pm today there will be exactly one week left for you to submit your play to the NJ Young Playwrights Festival!

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Advice to young playwrights, Part 5

Continuing our advice series with comments from playwright and NJYPFestival script reader, Kirk Woodward. Enjoy!

What makes a strong play?

For me the most important element of a strong play is a good idea. A solid idea makes everything else possible. A weak idea means the writer is constantly playing catch-up.

What types of characters do you like to write?

The answer to this question varies with the play, of course, but I like characters with spunk. Also, as a male playwright I set myself years ago the challenge of writing at least as many female as male characters, and I like that.

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

I know this comment is terribly subjective, but it has to excite me. There are many excellent plays that will do better if someone else writes them or directs them, because they don’t stir my imagination.

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

I once wrote the entire score for a musical for children during one working day, while sitting at my desk. (Didn’t get much other work done, however.) That was fun!

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

Fairly typical: I worked a long time on a draft of a play, and when I finished it I re-read it and realized it was a total bomb from beginning to end. NOTE: if that happens, you have to either rewrite it entirely, or discard it. Don’t try to breathe life into a dead play. You’ll write others. If you don’t like it, no one else will, that’s for sure.

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

Don’t listen to advice too much. When it comes down to it, your job is to write. Let other people do the evaluating. Write what you feel you’re called to write.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013


We are now 12 days away from the submission deadlines for the 2013 New Jersey Young Playwrights Festival! Please remember that submitting your script to us is a TWO part process:

1) Complete the playwright information page at
2) Send your script as an email attachment (Word Doc or PDF only, please!) to

When sending your script, please label the file with YOUR NAME - TITLE of PLAY - DIVISION. Thanks!

ALSO, we encourage all NJ-based young playwrights to send their plays to the national playwriting contest run by Young Playwrights, Inc. Their submission deadline is today! For more information, see their website at

Happy writing!

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Happy 2013

Happy New Year, everyone!

Don't forget, the submission deadline for the 2013 NJ Young Playwrights Festival is in two weeks!

January 14 for High School submissions (grades 10-12) and January 15 for Junior HS (grades 7-9) and Elementary submissions (grades 4-6). Visit the website at for information or to submit your script.