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