Monday, December 15, 2014

Plays for 2015 due today!

Today is the day!

Script submissions are due tonight before 11:59 pm for all divisions. Please use the NJYPF website for links to the online title page form and don't forget to submit your script via email to You must complete both steps for your entry to be valid.

Break a leg!

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Scripts for 2015 Festival due December 15

I've noticed that our most visited post in recent days is one that lists a due date for last year's (2014) contest. Since that seems to be the information that most of our visitors are looking for, I wanted to put this post up to alleviate any confusion.

Scripts for the 2015 NJ Young Playwrights Festival are due Monday, December 15 no later than 11:59 pm.

Please use the NJYPF website to begin the submission process.

Call for Readers and Actors for 2015

Interested in participating in the 2015 New Jersey Young Playwrights Contest & Festival? We are currently looking for READERS and ACTORS for both the annual statewide festival and our local Madison Young Playwrights Festival.

Please let us know of your interest by completing our Festival Participation application via SurveyMonkey at

You can contact the Education office with any questions at or 973-514-1787, ext. 21.


Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Tick tock!


Yes, that's right. There are only two weeks left before the submission deadline for the 2015 NJ Young Playwrights Festival on December 15.

Looking forward to receiving your play soon!

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

How's it going? One month to go!

Why, hello there!

Sorry for the long radio silence. We're back and anxiously awaiting your scripts.

How's it going?

What are you writing about?

One of the more difficult parts of writing is getting started. And while it can be easy to suggest that the best way to get started is to simply sit down and write, ideas don't always come that easily. Hopefully you're reading this with a solid idea already in place and you're cruising through a first draft (or later) of your script. Certainly there are some of you who may feel a little stuck. That's ok. It happens. The trick is figuring out a way to get out of the rut.

For the past few weeks, we've been sharing a series of writing prompts on the NJYPF Pinterest page and linking them through PTNJ's Twitter feed and the NJYPF Facebook page. Maybe you've seen some. These short prompts are great ways to get started with a story and see where it takes you. It could be that you come up with a story, or a character, or some other germ of an idea that sprouts into your script submission. Even if a prompt only sprouts a sliver of an idea, that is a success to embrace.

So, if you haven't yet, take a peek at some of those prompts and find where your pen, or keyboard, takes you. And if you do use one of the prompts for your final submission, we'd love to know which one it was and how it got you started. But most of all, we'd love to know what you're writing. What is your story about? What excites you about it the most? We'd love to hear from you.

One month left to write before the December 15 deadline!

Happy writing!

Friday, September 19, 2014

Accepting "works-in-progress" for 2015 NJYPF

You may have heard that the submission deadline for the 2015 NJ Young Playwrights Festival is one month earlier this year than it has been in the past. We realize that the new December 15 deadline may be too early for some playwrights who are writing their scripts in a school classroom, or residency program, so we're accepting partial script submissions for this year only.

Playwrights who may not finish in time for the December 15 deadline need to send us whatever draft they are currently working on and identify their play as a "work-in-progress" on the submission form. That indication, along with some additional information about the play, will help our readers better understand the play as you intend it.

If you have any questions about the work-in-progress submissions, please contact the PTNJ Education office at 973-514-1787, ext. 21 or via

Happy writing!

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

First submission received for NJYPF 2015

Happy to announce that we received our first script submission within hours of opening the submission page for the 2015 NJ Young Playwrights Festival. Keep 'em coming!

Submit your play today at

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Deadline Announcement for 2015 NJ Young Playwrights Contest & Festival

Attention New Jersey Young Playwrights!

We are now accepting script submissions for the 2015 NJ Young Playwrights Contest & Festival. The deadline for submissions this year is December 15, 2014.

Please take note that this deadline is earlier than we have traditional held in the past. This is because we are working on some changes to the Festival process that necessitate an earlier deadline; however, we do not yet have all of the details of these changes in hand. We will make another announcement when that is set. In the meantime, please note the December 15 deadline and start writing (if you haven't already)!

Scripts will be accepted through the Festival website. As in the past, this is a two-part process that requires the completion of an online title page via SurveyMonkey and the email submission of your script to You can complete the Title Page Forum using the link above, or by using the embedded form found on our website (use the internal link for Submissions).

Please let us know if you have any questions, or any difficulty with the submission of your script.

Happy writing!

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

An update from our current Playwriting Workshop for grades 6-12

The following was originally published on the personal blog of Jim DeVivo, PTNJ's Director of Education. It is reprinted here with his permission. You can follow Jim's blog here.
After teaching young playwrights for twelve years, I knew it was high time to evaluate my curriculum and consider some fresh ways to get my playwriting students started this summer. I have changed things consistently throughout those years, but the time felt ripe for something completely new. I browsed through my old plans and revisited my young playwrights bibliography and decided to try a few new things during Full Day Theatre Camp. In the process of that program last week, I discovered a tendency to model different steps in the process using examples that were independent of the others.

Today we began the class with a neutral scene of four lines between unspecified characters that I borrowed from CenterStage’s Teaching Playwriting in Schools: Teacher’s Handbook and set up the students with a scene between characters A and B. Students copied the dialogue and then continued the scene for three minutes. The difference between their stories was vast and best exemplified by two: one that involved an evil Lord commanding one of his servants and the other a more informal argument between friends about breakfast foods. This sparked a discussion of how dialogue can change depending upon the characters who speak them, the conflict between characters, and the location in which the conversation occurs. Students wrote a bit about their own characters using this information and then we moved on to an activity for outlining a story using the main character’s wants, the actions that character would be comfortable (and uncomfortable) taking to get what they want, and the obstacles that might stand in their way. Typically I start this exercise by referring to a common story with which everyone in the class (myself included) is at least casually familiar. However, finding such a story has become more difficult in recent years. My original reference (Star Wars) had become complicated by time and prequels. After a brief attempt at Harry Potter – of which I haven’t read enough of the series to keep up with the students – I moved to Cinderella. This has worked well given the variety of versions found in different cultures and the resulting discussions we’ve had about point of view and theme. The problem is that Cinderella works well with elementary students and adults (I love discussing Disney princesses with adults), but teens tend to tune out when I mention her name. So, without a strong common story to use with this group I planned to launch into the old Cinderellaroutine when I realized that we had just discussed a handful of perfectly good story ideas that developed from the neutral scene. Why not choose one of them?

I choose the story of the evil Lord and his servant and the class was immediately energized by the prospect of creating a new story. Actually, I was surprised by how quickly they jumped into the process – none of the usual prodding questions and encouragements needed here! In fact, I think using an example from the students’ writing may have deepened their understanding of the Want-Action-Obstacle model as they were applying it to a new story much as they would when they set off to outline their individual plays. They’ve been so involved that I’ve been able to write this post as they continue to work well beyond when I told them I would first interrupt! Can’t wait to see where their stories take them next.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Writing prompts

We're four weeks in to summer with only six weeks left before school begins again! At some point in those six weeks we will be announcing the procedural changes to the NJ Young Playwrights Festival, but you shouldn't wait for that announcement to start working on your play.

Picture found on
Head on over to our Pinterest page to find a wealth of links to writing prompts that may spark your imagination. I suggest free-writing based on a few of those prompts to see where your imagination might take you. You may just find yourself with a head start on your script submission!

Happy writing!

Friday, July 11, 2014

Building a national young playwrights database

Since the fall, Jim DeVivo (PTNJ's Director of Education) has led a small team of interns to compile a list of young playwrights programs across the United States as a first step in Playwrights Theatre's initiative to build a national database of these programs. We will collect information through a form on SurveyMonkey, which was sent to about 56 organizations who run contests, festivals, workshops, publications, or other opportunities for young playwrights (typically aged 18/19 or younger). We look forward to compiling the results and sharing a first draft of this database on the NJ Young Playwrights Festival website by the end of 2014.

If you are the administrator for a young playwrights program and did not receive this link, please contact Jim at

You can follow the action on social media as we've asked those who share their information to announce the news of their participation under the hashtag #youngplaywrights.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Summer playwriting classes at Playwrights Theatre of NJ

This summer, prepare your play for the 2015 NJ Young Playwrights Contest & Festival (NJYPF) by attending one of our Playwriting Workshops for students entering grades 6-12. Classes will be taught by our Director of Education, Jim DeVivo who has 20 years experience mentoring young artists including 12 years as the program director for the NJYPF. Details on our website!

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Day 3 - Readings of the High School plays

Prop chicken for Enter Banquo's Ghost by Miranda Hoyt-Disick.
Our Props Manager made this from newspaper and tape in only 20 minutes!

On Tuesday, June 3, we presented the plays from the High School Division of the 2014 New Jersey Young Playwrights Festival along with a special reading of a play from the Living with Disabilities category.

Rosemary Glennon and Seth Jambor in Hurricane Season by Alexa Derman
The day begin with an afternoon of tech rehearsals for the four High School Division plays in which a number of final script changes were implemented. Tech rehearsal is a chance for me to get "production" shots from the Festival, which had to be done with a smart phone. Apologies for some of the blurriness this may have caused!
Cara Ganski and Dan Pellicano in Ink Never Dulls by Talia Green
Dan Pellicano and Timothy Regan in Mechanical Advancement by Emily Donegan

The evening performance began with a special reading of Midnight by Hazel Solender. This play was chosen in our Living with Disabilities category through a grant from VSA, the international organization on arts and disabilities at the Kennedy Center for Performing Arts in Washington, DC. Hazel's script, along with others submitted to the NJ Young Playwrights Festival via the Living with Disabilities category, was sent to VSA for consideration in the annual Playwright Discovery Program.

High School Division plays followed with staged readings given by members of two separate casts. The plays were presented in the following order: Enter Banquo's Ghost by Miranda Hoyt-Disick, Hurricane Season by Alexa Derman, Ink Never Dulls by Talia Green, and Mechanical Advancement by Emily Donegan.

In addition to their selection in the NJ Young Playwrights Festival, the scripts by Talia Green, Emily Donegan, and Alexa Derman were also chosen by the Roxbury Arts Alliance/Roxbury Performing Arts Center for presentation in late July. My Life, My Family, Not My Wallet by Christopher Frick in the Junior HS Division was also selected for this program. In late July, these four plays will be remounted with a new cast and new revisions.

We are also happy to share that this week Alexa Derman is traveling to Los Angeles for the presentation of her play What We Talk About When We Talk About Planned Parenthood, which was a winner in the national young playwrights festival produced by The Blank Theatre.

A fantastic evening of plays from a remarkably talented group of young writers!

You can see additional pictures from the NJ Young Playwrights Festival on our Facebook page here.

High School playwrights and Cast
We again offer our congratulations to everyone who wrote and submitted a play to the Festival. We hope that you continue to share your creative imaginations with us and look forward to receiving a new script from you next year...

... that said ...

There will be some changes to the NJ Young Playwrights format for next year. We will announce some preliminary details within the next few days in order to inform schools of the change so that they can prepare for the fall semester. Further details will be released in the summer. So, please stay tuned!

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Day 2 - Readings of the Junior HS, Elementary, and Revolutionary plays

Monday evening we celebrated the playwrights whose work was chosen in the Junior HS division, Elementary division, and Revolutionary Plays category. With eight plays combined among those groups, there was a lot of material to cover and we worked right until the last minute to get things in place. Our intrepid cast (below) brought to life a variety of characters and themes from kids being rewarded for doing a good deed (My Life, My Family, Not My Wallet by Chris Frick) to seeking help to face down a bully (I Beat the Bully by Amanda Kefalas). There was a traditional-style fairy tale about a girl who wanted to write stories and share them with the children of her town (A Good Story, A Beautiful Person by Ashley Jiang) and an exploration office culture where the most important thing is to be true to yourself (Accounting for Change by Elizabeth Hendy). Time travel brought on by studying was a common theme (Zoe Verrazano's Big Adventure by Katie Dore and Molly Bloom and Her Weird Adventure in the American Revolution - the latter was our play from the Rev Plays category, of course). And two plays focused on young characters who pursue and live up to their dreams (So Let's Get Cooking by Lily Bauer and An Underdog Story by Morgan McCauley).

Junior HS, Elementary, & Revolutionary Plays playwrights

Quite an evening of plays! Quite a workout for our actors!

(Below from L to R: Cara Ganski, Daniel Pellicano, Gavin Johnson, Kelley McAndrews, Megan Greener, and Timothy Regan)


Earlier in the afternoon the casts met to continue work on the plays from the High School division. Unfortunately, a computer glitch kept me at the office longer than I had planned, so I wasn't able to get to the rehearsals in time to get any pictures. We had quite a lot to cover in the final rehearsal of the Junior HS, Elementary, and Revolutionary plays and since I was directing, there wasn't much opportunity to get some shots. There will be plenty of time and opportunity during tech tomorrow! Hope to see you there, too!

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Day 1 - Rehearsals

 Today began the 2014 New Jersey Young Playwrights Festival with a series of first read-thrus for each of the plays in the Elementary, Junior HS, and High School Divisions. For the Fesitval there will be two separate performances: one on Monday night for the Junior HS & Elementary plays; another on Tuesday night for the High School plays. Separate casts are assembled for each evening and today we began with the Junior HS & Elementary group.

We met with the cast at the University Center Little Theatre on the campus of Kean University beginning at 11:00 this morning and were joined by Amanda Kefalas, the author of the play I Beat the Bully. After reading Amanda's play, we proceeded through a few more scripts before breaking for lunch.

Director Artem Yatsunov in action.
After lunch, the cast regrouped and added additional actors and directors to read the plays from the High School division. These plays are further divided into two pairings, which are based in part on theme, but largely on the way in which the character breakdowns match up. Two separate casts of actors are assigned to each pairing, which also have their own director. After reading through the plays all together, the two casts split up to continue discussion of the play and, if time permitted, began blocking the script.

Miranda Hoyt-Disick enjoying a moment in rehearsal.
Miranda Hoyt-Disick, the author of Enter Banquo's Ghost, was with us this afternoon and provide insight into the play for Artem Yatsunov, the director and his cast of Megan Greener, Rosemary Glennon, Gavin Earl Johnson, and Seth Jambor. I sat in on some of the rehearsal for Enter Banquo's Ghost and caught a few moments of the action. The play is inspired by Shakespeare's Macbeth and follows engaged couple Beth (Megan Greener) and Joey (Seth Jambor) as they prepare for and host a dinner party for Beth's college friend, Allie (Rosemary Glennon). Beth is haunted by the memory of her former boyfriend Robert Banquo (Gavin Earl Johnson), who makes an appearance at the dinner party as a figment of Beth's imagination. The story is full of anxiety and action for Megan Greener in the role of Beth, which brought some great pictures like the one below:

Megan Greener
Megan Greener & Seth Jambor
You can find additional photos from tonight's sessions on the NJYPF Facebook page here. Additional pictures will be added to the album over the next two days. Enjoy!

Saturday, May 31, 2014

5 Questions with Miranda Hoyt-Disick

Today we conclude our 5 Questions with a Playwright series for the 2014 New Jersey Young Playwrights Festival with a New Jersey resident who attends school in the Bronx!...
Miranda Hoyt-Disick
11th grade, Riverdale Country School
1. What inspired you to write Enter Banquo's Ghost?

On the night of the Tonys sophomore year, I was faced with a challenge. I had to write an updated version of the banquet scene from Macbeth that happened to be due the next day. Coincidentally, I had recently started watching the HBO series Girls, and I thought it might be fun to inject Shakespeare with some good old Hannah Horvath neuroses. I decided that the protagonist, "Beth", would be haunted by the ghost of her old boyfriend, "Robert Banquo". The whole thing was just supposed to be one scene, but I started playing around with the characters and decided upgrade Beth's nervous behavior to a mental break-down, complete with banter and the destruction of a perfectly good chicken.

2. You directed your play for a theatre festival at your school last year. Please tell us more about that experience.

I loved directing my play at school. My producer and assistant director, Madeline Meyer, was amazing about scheduling everything and helping me with the blocking and with giving notes to my actors. We rehearsed during lunch in the drama and film rooms. It was my first experience directing, and I found everyone eager to cooperate and make the play as good as it could be. During the performance, I was pretty much frozen in a state of joint joy/terror, a condition that will probably rear its head again at the next production.

3. In your bio you mention that you play both the guitar and ukulele. When did you begin to play these instruments? What is the biggest difference between playing the guitar and the ukulele?

I began playing guitar in 5th grade and ukulele around this time last year. They're both great instruments, but the ukulele is portable and easier to play in the hallways to the annoyance of everyone, so naturally I prefer it.

4. What has been your most memorable theatre experience to date?

At the beginning of the year, I got to see The Glass Menagerie with Zach Quinto and was crying by the end of the first act. It was a beautiful production that did nothing but enhance my undying love for Tennessee Williams and pretty blatant desire to resurrect him.

5. If you were going on an adventure, who would you take as your travel partner and why?

I didn't even have to think about this one. Spike from Buffy the Vampire Slayer, 100%.  If you've seen the show, you understand. If not, first of all, why haven't you seen it, go now, watch all 7 seasons they're on Netflix. Done? Welcome back. Spike is resourceful, good in a fight, and has an amazing habit of commenting on the story going on around him. We only have one of these qualities in common, but still. Definitely Spike. He's a little undead, but it's totally fine. I'd just have to remember a blanket to shield him from the sun (he burns up pretty quickly). 

See Miranda's play Enter Banquo's Ghost at the 2014 New Jersey Young Playwrights Festival on Tuesday, June 3 beginning at 7:00 p.m. Performances will be held in the University Center Little Theatre on the campus of Kean University. Please reserve your space by contacting us at See you there!

Friday, May 30, 2014

5 Questions with Talia Green

Continuing our 5 Questions with a Playwright series for the 2014 New Jersey Young Playwrights Festival with...
Talia Green
11th grade, Bergen County Academies
1. What inspired you to write Ink Never Dulls?

I've always been particularly sensitive towards the subject of domestic abuse, as such violence in one's childhood has the ability to affect his/her perspective of the world for the rest of their lives. I also read often about stories that romanticize abusive relationships, such as Captive in the Dark by CJ Roberts, or Stolen by Lucy Christopher. Though thrilling, stories like these manifest a pretensive light on abuse, as though reshaping it to make it more entertaining. For that reason, I decided to write a play that portrays abuse as all that it is: highly disturbing, and difficult to watch. I am hoping that my play can help absolve the misconceptions that the media helps produce regarding abuse, and can also help teach what to do if placed in a similar situation.  

2. You have won awards for your poetry and social activism. Please tell us more about those experiences.

Writing has been a significant part of my life since before I can remember. I cannot recall a period in my childhood during which I did not carry around my journal to jot down whatever surfaced in my thoughts; I have always been more articulate in my writing than I've been in speech, and this realization led me to writing poetry more seriously and frequently. Only recently, however, have I been able to fulfill what I've yearned to through my poetry and music: write messages that mean more than just my experiences. I have such strong opinions of, and hopes for, us as a progressive society, and I have finally written work that can express those concepts. I believe that if an idea is planted in your head - through a poem, song, or any other medium - it has the incentive to grow into a thought that you construct yourself. Through that, you can reevaluate the way you see things, and allow that idea to widen your field of perception. This is what I hope to accomplish through my writing, and am honored to have been awarded for some of my works that succeed in such a task.

3. In addition to your writing, you are a vocalist. What kinds of music do you typically perform?

Though I tend to perform a wide range of genres, I mostly perform soul/blues. I also write indie ballads. (I may have just invented a genre of music.)

4. What has been your most memorable theatre experience to date?

This past winter, I performed as Reverend Hightower in the Bergen County Academies' production of Bat Boy. It was the most rewarding theatrical experience I could ask for. I was able to develop a character so unlike the serious characters I tend to write; the Reverend was silly, exciting, and extremely individual. I was also able to intertwine my love for soul music to this crazy character.

5. If you had the opportunity to sit down and have dinner with anyone (living or dead), who would it be and what would be your most burning question?

I would love to sit down with Mathew Arnold, and ask him what inspired him to write the poem "The Voice". That is the first poem I've ever really connected to, and up to now, It's still my favorite poem. My second burning question would be to see the original copy of "The Voice", including all of his pen blotches and scratched lines and illegible handwriting. You can tell so much about a poem and it's writer by the way it's written.

See Talia's play Ink Never Dulls at the 2014 New Jersey Young Playwrights Festival on Tuesday, June 3 beginning at 7:00 p.m. Performances will be held in the University Center Little Theatre on the campus of Kean University. Please reserve your space by contacting us at See you there!

Casting annoucement: actors from Premiere Stages & Kean University

You're getting a sense of the plays that will premiere at the NJ Young Playwrights Festival next week, but who will you see perform? We bring together actors from a variety of locations, but try to hire as many New Jersey-based artists as we can. Some of what helps in this goal is our production partnership with Premiere Stages @ Kean University. Premiere not only helps provide the location for the Festival, but also connections to the talent pool within the Kean University Department of Theatre. We've been fortunate to cultivate relationships with a number of great actors from the university and continue to do so with recent graduates.

Timothy Regan (Class of 2008) has the longest tenure of our current group of Kean actors having performed with us in a number of young playwrights festivals and in-school assemblies of student written work. Tim has traveled extensively with ArtsPower National Touring Theatre and was most recently seen in Our Town at George Street Playhouse. This week makes his fourth appearance in the NJ Young Playwrights Festival!

Cara Ganski (Class of 2014) first performed in the NJ Young Playwrights Festival in 2012 making her three year tenure with the program the second longest on record. Cara has performed in the Premiere Stages productions of Farragut North and A Beautiful Dark in addition to a variety of roles in Kean University productions. Additionally, Cara is a teaching artist, Disney princess impersonator, and has evaluated script submissions for the NJYPF contest. See what else she is up to on her website at

Kelley McAndrews (Class of 2014) appeared on the Kean stage in roles from Penny Pingleton in Hairspray to Lady Macbeth! (You can see video of these performances and more on her website at Kelley first performed with Playwrights Theatre in our local program the Madison Young Playwrights Festival and we're thrilled to have her back again for NJYPF!

Daniel Pellicano (Class of 2013) is no stranger to Playwrights Theatre having performed in a reading of Another Spring by Yasmine Beverly Rana this past April. He received great mentions (NY Times and Talkin' Broadway) for his performance in Premiere Stage's 2013 production of A Beautiful Dark in which he performed with Dana Benningfield (who will also join the Festival cast this year); Daniel also performed as Macbeth opposite Kelley McAndrew during his senior year at Kean.

You can see all four actors in readings of plays by Junior HS and Elementary students at the Festival on Monday, June 2 and in the staged reading of High School plays on Tuesday, June 3. We look forward to seeing you there!

Thursday, May 29, 2014

5 Questions with Emily Donegan

Continuing our 5 Questions with a Playwright series for the 2014 New Jersey Young Playwrights Festival with...
Emily Donegan
11th grade, Bergen County Academies
1. What inspired you to write Mechanical Advancement?

I was inspired to write Mechanical Advancement by listening to Weird Al's song 'Virus Alert' about a wacky computer virus that has inconvenient yet hilarious effects on the victim in real life. It got me thinking about the human-technology relationship.

2. In your bio you mention that “the backstage realm is particularly dear” to you. What do you like about working backstage?

I love everything about working backstage. I love that there is a whole other side to a show that the audience doesn't see, a secret hectic flurry of costumes and lights and having to think fast on your feet.

3. You also mention that you enjoy cooking. What is your favorite thing to make?

My favorite thing to cook is jell-o.

4. What has been your most memorable theatre experience to date?

My most memorable theatre experience was when I accidentally broke a plate on stage, then sliced my hand open as I tried to pick up the pieces. There was blood and glass everywhere, and we all just had to work around it. It was great.

5.  If you could have three wishes granted, what would they be?

The problem with wishes granted is that they almost always have some kind of ironic twist. I'd keep it simple (so nothing could go wrong) and wish for a steak, a Dr. Pepper, and world peace.

See Emily's play Mechanical Advancement at the 2014 New Jersey Young Playwrights Festival on Tuesday, June 3 beginning at 7:00 p.m. Performances will be held in the University Center Little Theatre on the campus of Kean University. Please reserve your space by contacting us at See you there!

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

5 Questions with Alexa Derman

With the 2014 New Jersey Young Playwrights Festival just a few days away, it is time for our annual 5 Questions with a Playwright series: NJYPF edition! We go alphabetically by last name and present a playwright from the High School Division each day. So, today we begin with...

Alexa Derman
12th grade, Westfield High School
 1.      What inspired you to write Hurricane Season?

Hurricane Season was initially part of a series of short plays by a number of playwrights called SOS: Stories of Sandy performed by Contagious Drama Workshop. When I was offered the chance to write for the production, I knew immediately I was going to write something about mortality. Sandy was a crazy experience for me because of the same reason as Kim, in the play -- it burst the illusion of invincibility provide by growing up in the suburbs. I was actually assigned my actors in advance, before I wrote it, and when I met with the pair, a (relatively shy) boy and a (relatively outgoing) girl, they both said they wanted to play roles that challenged them. Thus, for the boy I created the boisterous Joey and for the girl, the more reserved Kim.

2.      You have won multiple awards for your writing in a variety of genres. How does your writing process differ between forms?

I think my writing process doesn't differ so much between forms as between types. What I mean is, I have stories that are very dialogue-based the way Hurricane Season is, and the process for those works are similar: usually some argument just explodes out of me around 2 am and then I refine it. But I also have plays and prose pieces that are more "involved," more focused around a single character, and more collage-based -- right now I'm writing a play that collapses into a Shakespeare one at its climax. For those pieces, I usually end up doing a lot of research and planning. 

3.      You have also won awards for your work as a hair and make-up artist. Please tell us more about that work!

I'm the hair and makeup artist in my school theatre department, and it was definitely a happy accident -- my director asked me out of the blue to take over my sophomore year, and I jumped in despite having zero experience. Many hours of YouTube videos and practice later, it's become something I really love to do. We did Bat Boy last year, in 2013, and creating a half-bat half-boy mutant was one of my favorite projects. Every day it took about an hour to get him ready, but it was worth it!

4.      What has been your most memorable theatre experience to date?

It's a tie. This past fall, my high school did a production of Mary Zimmerman's Metamorphoses, based on the Ovid of the same name. It's a beautiful show about myth and transformation -- and it also took place in a massive pool we built in our pit! The cast and crew was very small, and the show was gorgeous and emotional. It was a great final fall play. (And then we were lucky enough to win Outstanding Overall Production at the MSU Theatre Night Awards!) On the flip side, four or five years ago I was Dorothy an all-girls cast of The Wiz at my hippie drama sleepaway camp, and even though it wasn't of the highest "quality" I had such a fun time jammin' to "Ease on Down" and bopping with the eight-year-old munchkins. Just a really, really fun time. 

5.      If you could have any super-human power, what would it be and why?

Definitely super-human memory. Not only would it save me time on Calculus homework, but also because it would be really cool to just be able to launch into page-long speeches and poems whenever they feel relevant.

See Alexa's play Hurricane Season at the 2014 New Jersey Young Playwrights Festival on Tuesday, June 3 beginning at 7:00 p.m. Performances will be held in the University Center Little Theatre on the campus of Kean University. Please reserve your space by contacting us at See you there!

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Reflection on the Madison Young Playwrights Program from Dania Ramos

About a month ago, Playwrights Theatre concluded the 28th annual Madison Young Playwrights Program with in-school assemblies of student-written work at the participating schools. The plays at one school contained the right character combinations where we could put a cast of all female actors into place with director Dania Ramos. We asked Ms. Ramos to reflect upon this unique presentation and are happy to include her thoughts below. Enjoy!

Cast and playwrights onstage at Torey J. Sabatini School.
Today (March 20) I had the pleasure of directing four delightful scripts written by student playwrights who attend Torey J. Sabatini Elementary School in Madison. The staged readings were presented as part of the 2014 Madison Young Playwrights Program.

For those of you unfamiliar with how a Playwrights Theatre assembly works, here’s a quick run down. A director and a company of four to six actors are given the students’ scripts a few days before the performance. We meet the morning of the readings for about four hours of rehearsal. Then we show up at the school in the afternoon and the actors perform script-in-hand readings for the student playwrights, their classmates, teachers, and parents. No props. No costumes. No set.

The scripts featured in today’s assembly had a nice balance of humor and poignancy. In Rising From the Pitts by Charlotte Sullivan, a girl unexpectedly bonds with her grandmother after learning she was once a contestant on Star Search. In Benji van der Hulst’s untitled script, three brothers anxiously await the arrival of a special package in the mail. Sassyfrass Sisters by Keira Munter shows high drama between three girls at summer camp. Finally, in The Stapler’s Revenge by Artha Abeysignhe, a pair of staple removers, an exotic pen, and a ruler work together to defeat an evil stapler.

Today was the first Madison Young Playwrights Program cast to be comprised of only women. Natalie Bailey, Rosemary Glennon, Brittany Goodwin, and Summer Hortillosa are all versatile, generous actresses with a sincere enthusiasm for performing material by and for children.

People familiar with the New Jersey Young PlaywrightsContest might recognize Summer Hortillosa as a winner of the 2007 New Jersey Young Playwrights Contest in the High School Division. I remember watching (and loving) the reading of her script seven years ago. It was moving to watch Summer take the stage today and offer a new generation of young writers the opportunity to see their work come to life.  (Editor note: You can find guest posts from Summer Hortillosa on the blog: advice to young playwrights here and reflection on her experience as a NJ Young Playwright here.)

Recognizing the playwrights after the performance.
Perhaps my favorite moment of directing a Playwrights Theatre assembly is meeting the playwrights after the readings. It’s always fun to match a student’s face to script and to see each of their reactions when an entire auditorium applauds their hard work and creativity.

My Favorite Lines

Rising From the Pitts by Charlotte Sullivan
EMILY:  Star Search, what the heck is that?
SOPHIE:  It was sort of like American Idol back in the olden days.

Untitled by Benji van der Hulst
DOODLE: No…maybe…possibly…ok! Fine! It was me!

Sassyfrass Sisters by Keira Munter
LUCY:  Let’s get you cleaned up. Not everyone gets a dress from Paris.
CAROLINE: You mean, a specially-designed dress from Paris.

The Stapler’s Revenge by Artha Abeysignhe

JERSLISS: Rulers, because of their name, are rulers. It’s kind of unfair, but that’s just how it is.

Dania Ramos is a writer and a theatre professional. She has directed student work for the NJPAC’s Young Writers Workshop and PTNJ’s Young Playwrights Festivals and Language-in-Motion Assemblies. She's also a program coordinator for Montclair State University’s College of the Arts, Office of Education and Community Outreach. Dania's play Hielo (developed through PTNJ's New Jersey Emerging Women's Project) was recently named runner-up in Repertorio Espa ñol's 2013 MetLife Nuestras Voces Competition. She holds an MA in Creative Writing from Wilkes University and a BFA in Theatre Performance from Montclair State University.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Putting it together

Bit by bit,
Putting it together...
Piece by piece -
Only way to make a work of art.
Every moment makes a contribution,
Every little detail plays a part.
Having just a vision's no solution,
Everything depends on execution:
Putting it together -
That's what counts!

From the song "Putting it Together" in Act II, of Sunday in the Park with George by James Lapine and Stephen Sondheim. Thanks to LyricWiki for the words!

Drawing inspiration from Mr. Sondheim again today as a few more pieces to the NJ Young Playwrights Festival come together today. We've had a series of computer glitches in the past few days that have slowed things down. Back on our feet today and getting final details in place to fully launch the Festival in June.

We are adding some new components to the program this year including a mentorship for each high school playwrights with a professional playwright who will be working alongside them as a dramaturg. Keep posted to this blog for more news as it is available.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Announcing the 2014 New Jersey Young Playwrights

Congratulations to the 2014 New Jersey Young Playwrights! (Plays are listed alphabetically by the playwrights' last names)

HIGH SCHOOL (grades 10-12)
- Hurricane Season by Alexa Derman
- Mechanical Advancement by Emily Donegan
- Ink Never Dulls by Talia Green
- Enter Banquo's Ghost by Miranda Hoyt-Disick

- My Life, My Family, Not My Wallet by Christopher Frick
- Accounting for Change by Elizabeth Hendy
- An Underdog Story by Morgan McCauley

ELEMENTARY (grades 4-6)
- So Let's Get Cooking by Lily Bauer
- Zoe Verrazano's Big Adventure by Katie Dore
- A Good Story, A Beautiful Life by Ashley Jiang
- I Beat the Bully by Amanda Kefalas

An announcement regarding the REVOLUTIONARY PLAYS division will be coming soon.

Plays from the Elementary and Junior HS divisions will be presenting as readings on Monday, June 2.

Plays from the High School division will be presented as staged readings on Tuesday, June 3.

High school playwrights will also receive a 2014 New Jersey Governors Award in Arts Education at a special event in Trenton on Thursday, May 1.

For more information about the Festival, or the playwrights, please visit our website at

Congratulations to the playwrights whose work was selected for the Festival and to all of those who submitted a script!

Friday, March 28, 2014

Judging done; playwrights contacted!

Playwrights whose work has been selected for the 2014 New Jersey Young Playwrights Festival have all been contacted. Once we confirm with everyone (and parents) we will begin posting the list of plays and playwrights.

Thanks again to all who submitted a play!

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Staging student-written work during Theatre in Our Schools month

We're very busy with young playwrights' work this week! Spent yesterday rehearsing for two school assemblies that will be presented today as part of the Madison Young Playwrights Program. There is another assembly on Thursday and a final presentation late next week.

In the middle of all of the work on Madison, there will also be a meeting of the Selection Panel for the NJ Young Playwrights Festival this Friday. The four of us will meet to select up to 10 scripts from the 33 that advanced to this final round of judging.

To reiterate, we will spend the rest of March contacting and confirming details with the selected playwrights. Results will be posted here in early April.

In the meantime, we hope that you are enjoying Theatre in Our Schools Month and will consider attending a play tomorrow, March 20 for the World Day of Theatre for Children.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Throwback Thursday - NJYPF 2006

For Throwback Thursday, the High School playwrights from the 2006 NJ Young Playwrights Festival:

l to r: Katie Hathaway, Bonnie Torre, Megan O'Brien, Brittany Wallace

Monday, March 10, 2014

Guest Post from NJYPF reader Guleraana Mir

Today's guest blog post is from Guleraana Mir, a theatre practitioner and writer, who read plays for the NJ Young Playwrights Festival in both the first and second rounds. Based in London, Guleraana works with young people from around the world to create new works for the theatre. We thought it would be interesting to hear her perspective on the characters and themes that she sees in this work and how plays by New Jersey young playwrights compare. Enjoy!


Working as a teaching artist with young people in New York, London and South America, I have come to realise that teenagers are essentially the same all over the world. Sure, cultures vary, political landscapes are vastly different and young people experience a number of socio-economic climates, but it seems they are moved to write, to create art not by what surrounds them, but by what they feel. I don’t say this to perpetuate stereotypes of shallow, angst-ridden beings steeped in the Hollywood notion of high-school cliques, but because it inspires me that sometimes, what is outside of the teenage bubble is just not interesting enough.

In Brazil, working with students from the favelas, I expected tales of drug lords, in the East End of London I presumed my first-generation immigrant families would regale me with stories of how they came to be in this bustling metropolis, in deepest Brooklyn I waited for recollections of gunfights on doorsteps. What I actually received could easily have been transplanted from one area to another.

Young people write about struggles in love and friendship, they write about relationships with their families, they write about school, about being human. There are linguistic differences, the towns and cities they describe are worlds apart but the themes remain the same. I’m always struck by the honesty that teenagers portray in their dialogue, not yet realising that we don’t always speak the way that we think we do. They pay particular attention to colloquialisms and often demonstrate a blissful naiveté that adult writers are too jaded to find.

This year I read the plays for NJYP alongside a number of full-length plays for a producer friend of mine searching for a new project in London. I can honestly say that I would rather have pitched her a number of the short plays written by junior-high school students than the over-ambitious, poorly executed plays I was forced to reject.

Schemes like the NJYP nurture creativity when it is as it’s brightest. The imagination and enthusiasm is apparent in the writers’ words and I’ve been wholly inspired this year. I look forward to seeing the shortlist of winners and reading the strongest plays in the competition. To all the young people who submitted, well done, and please, continue writing. The future of engaging and exciting theatre experiences is in your hands!

Guleraana Mir is co-founder of London Playwriting Lab, a brand new script development initiative created for writers, by writers. She was previously Artistic Director of First Foot Theatre Productions in New York City. Guleraana currently delivers a mixture of curriculum enrichment through drama, applied-theatre, and nutrition workshops whilst desperately trying to finish her first full-length play. Her writing credits include:

Merry ******* Christmas- Drayton Arms, London, December 2013
Dossier- Camden Peoples’ Theatre, London, November 2013
If I had a Hammer- Camden Peoples’ Theatre, London, February 2013
Betty- Pless Hall Black Box Theatre, New York, NY, March 2010
Mannequin Mount Carmel Theatre Company, Brooklyn, NY, March 2010
Voodoo Child Pless Hall Black Box Theatre, New York, NY, September 2008

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Entering the Final Round!

Both the Elementary and High School divisions have now entered their respective final rounds of judging. The Junior HS division, always the largest of the three, is going to take a little more time before it is ready. However, I will meet with the Selection Panel on March 21 to discuss each of the finalist scripts and to select the plays from each division that will be presented at the 2014 NJ Young Playwrights Festival in June.

Stay tuned!

Friday, February 21, 2014

Second round begins today

Early this morning - VERY early this morning (I think I was done by 2:45 am) - the scripts that advanced to the second round of the NJ Young Playwrights contest were sent out to readers for adjudication. We are on track to complete this round by mid-March. I'm in the process of gathering the selection panel who will ultimately decide on the plays that we be produced in June. Stay tuned!

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

More advice for young playwrights

Today on Twitter I connected with Lin-Manuel Miranda (In the Heights, Bring It On: the Musical) while he was online and asked if he had any advice for young playwrights:

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Plenty o' scripts!

I'm still wading through the hundreds of script submissions that we received. I want to make sure that all of the scripts match up to the entries done via the online title page. Should be done tomorrow and then off to the readers!

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Submission deadline for 2014 has passed

Thanks to all of the playwrights who submitted a script to the 2014 New Jersey Young Playwrights Festival. This afternoon I will begin to process the scripts and get them ready for our readers to critique in the weeks ahead.

If there was any trouble with your submission, you will be contacted via the email provided. These emails will be sent no later than Tuesday, January 21 with instructions on how to fix the submission error and a new deadline. We're sorry but extensions can only be made to those playwrights for whom we had an error in processing.

Thanks again!