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!

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Junior HS & Elementary scripts due today!

Junior HS (grades 7-9) and Elementary (grades 4-6) are due today by 11:59 pm. Please see our submission guidelines on the website for any last minute instruction, or answers. (Link here)

Also, I cannot confirm receipt of scripts. However, if there is any trouble with your submission - typically a formatting issue with the file, or if we get a Title Page survey and no script - you will be contacted directly via the email address provided.


Tuesday, January 14, 2014

High School scripts due today!

High School plays (grades 10-12) are due today by 11:59 pm. Please see our submission guidelines on the website for any last minute instruction, or answers. (Link here)

Also, I cannot confirm receipt of scripts. However, if there is any trouble with your submission - typically a formatting issue with the file, or if we get a Title Page survey and no script - you will be contacted directly via the email address provided.


Sunday, January 12, 2014

Deadline reminder

Just a reminder that High School plays (grades 10-12) are due Tuesday, January 14 by 11:59 pm. Junior HS (grades 7-9) and Elementary (grades 4-6) are due on Wednesday, January 15 by 11:59 pm. Please see our submission guidelines on the website for any last minute instruction, or answers. (Link here)

Also, I cannot confirm receipt of scripts. However, if there is any trouble with your submission - typically a formatting issue with the file, or if we get a Title Page survey and no script - you will be contacted directly via the email address provided.


Saturday, January 11, 2014

Playwright bio - Philip Anastassiou

Our final playwright from 2013 is Philip Anastassiou.

Philip Anastassiou
11th grade, Bergen County Academies
1) What inspired you to write Good News!?

Good News!, like a lot of my plays, is an absurdist farce, exploring materialism, wealth, and etiquette. I was definitely influenced by the aesthetic of playwrights I admired at the time (and still continue to love,) such as Samuel Beckett and Eugene Ionesco. I was also fascinated by the idea of gallows humor and making an audience laugh at otherwise terribly depressing subjects. It was actually initially written for an annual student-run 24 Hour Play Festival at my high school that I helped produce several years ago, so it's also the product of a whole lot of fatigue and a whole lot of coffee.

2) You have won awards for your acting as well as your writing. Which do you prefer more: acting or writing?

I fell in love with theatre through performance first. It still is an extremely important part of me and I can't imagine ever letting go of it. However, since high school, I've become more intent on pursuing dramatic writing as a career. I'm currently an intern at the Off Broadway theatre company Playwrights Horizons, where I've been exposed to a huge amount of excellent (and not so excellent) plays by the young writers who are out and about living my dream as we speak. I've also had an invaluable glimpse at how new play development works at a professional level. This experience has greatly inspired me to follow writing to the next level and see where it takes me. Acting is enormously fun, but there is something exhilarating that can't accurately be put into words that comes with creating story. Writing gives me the opportunity to share my ideas and opinions with the world in a way that acting simply does not. Ideally, I'd like to be able to do both professionally and simultaneously. So basically, in a perfect world, I want to be Tracy Letts when I grow up.

3) You went to the Atlantic Acting School's Summer Teenage Ensemble program this past summer. What did you gain from this experience?

Through the sequential acting curriculum at the Bergen County Academies, I've been introduced to a few different schools of thought on performing. As a young actor, I'm still interested in experimenting with as many different techniques as possible and was attracted to this program because of Atlantic's own technique known as "practical aesthetics." It postulates that method acting is utter bull (for example, one needn't pretend to be Abraham Lincoln for the entirety of a filming, even when off-camera, to give a sincere performance) and what the actor must really expend their energy on is playing an action to achieve an objective despite obstacles. It's a modern spin off on Stanislavsky. I used to be very romantic with the idea of being method (whatever that means) and trying to put myself through similar conditions to somehow replicate the exact emotions that my characters were feeling in a play. This program really helped me realize what style of acting I prefer for myself and has simplified the process for me. 

4) Tell us a little about your responsibilities as co-artistic director of Studio 216, the student-run theatre company at Bergen County Academies.

I've been involved with my high school's student-run theatre company Studio 216 since freshman year. I became one of the two co-artistic directors the following year and have found the experience to be very worthwhile. Our mission is to provide the students of BCA with an environment where as artists they can explore, experiment, and showcase their work to the rest of our community. As everything we do is entirely student-produced, I help brainstorm and coordinate events for the future, manage our social media, design advertisements, and correspond with school administration while planning a show. The most recent example would be our 2013 Winter Playweek, where a student-written play was given a staged reading each day of the week during school hours. Anyone who was free during the same hour was welcome to see our daily performances for free. Ultimately, these responsibilities are shared between many of my friends who are also a part of Studio 216 and it has been a lot of fun over these past three years.

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

Flying would be pretty neat! Think of all the things you'd see! Then again, I guess that's what Google Maps is for. 

You can find Philip's bio, as well as bios for the other high school playwrights from 2013, on the NJ Young Playwrights Festival at

Friday, January 10, 2014

5 Questions with Philip Peker

Our next playwright from 2013 is Philip Peker.

Philip Peker
11th grade, Livingston Senior HS
1. What inspired you to write Blues-Berries?

Blues-Berries is heavily based on my relationship with my grandparents. In fact, Blues-Berries is quasi-auto-biographical play. Being that I spend the majority of every day with both my grandparents, their ever-presence in my life has really influenced me. My grandma and grandpa are the central inspiration for writing Blues-Berries. 

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

This was the first play I have ever written, so everything felt new and different to me. I really enjoyed seeing the words that I punched out at home by my computer literally come to life on stage. The transition between "written word" and "performed word" is terribly fascinating, especially when the work is your own. However, the thing I most enjoyed about writing this play, is that I continue to "write" this play everyday. The scenes in the play are almost exact replicas of what goes on in real life at the dinner table with my grandparents. Seeing my life acted out by actors on a stage, and then coming back home and seeing almost the exact same things being said by the people that the characters are framed after is a very surreal experience. I guess that's the beauty about writing; you can create parallel universes and different copies of yourself through writing. 

3. In your bio you mention that you are a classically trained guitarist who has delved into other musical genres. What are some of your favorites?

Oh man, well, I listen to practically anything that makes sound. However, for the past few years, I have been heavily vested in the Jazz genre. Every single thing about Jazz is terribly exciting. The spontaneity, the brilliance of the instrumentation, and the rawness of it really make it incredibly appealing to listen to and play. At the moment, my musical interests branch from the Jazz genre. I have started listening to tons of soul, funk, and old-school hip hop, and then also I continue to listen to a lot of classical, world, and gypsy music. I grew up listening to Russian folk music, and so that gave me a huge base for appreciating all types of musical genres. Oh, and dance music can be pretty sweet, if the occasion is right. I can go on for hours talking about music; darn you for asking this question! 

4. You also have a band, Castles, and compose your own music. What kind of music do you play? What musicians or musical movements influence your work?

Ah yes. Well, we tend to play most of our songs as "jams," and keep them as raw and natural as possible. As genres go, however, we tend be categorized as progressive or math rock. We incorporate tons of different styles, from hard rock/blues, to jazz and funk. For us, music is whatever sounds good, so we tend to throw definitions and genres out the window when we play. As a band we were originally influenced by groups like  King Crimson, Pink Floyd, ELP, and Yes, but we also really dig a lot of modern stuff like Portico Quartet, Minus the Bear, BBNG, Pat Metheny, E.S.T,  and the Mars Volta. 

5. What is your favorite flavor of ice cream?

Mocha Chip!

You can find Philip's bio, as well as bios for the other high school playwrights from 2013, on the NJ Young Playwrights Festival at

Thursday, January 9, 2014

5 Questions with Kelsey Garrett

The second playwright from the 2013 Festival is Kelsey Garrett.

Kelsey Garrett
11th grade, Middletown HS South
1. What inspired you to write Mirror?

The primary inspiration for writing Mirror came from daily life; the books, tv shows, the conversations with friends, and the mirror in front of me. I think it's so easy to fall into this trap of comparing yourself with every body else and no matter what finding reasons why you simply don't measure up. Look at any campaign marketed to a teen demographic, you'll read taglines like "how to lose 10 pounds in three weeks" or "how to get the guy" or "how should you dress for your body shape?" It's so destructive. We're inherently telling our girls that they are not good enough in their natural state, and that they have to spend money and time and effort to make themselves attractive. Intelligence and virtues aren't talked about it, it's all about the looks. Confidence is only talked about in terms of how it relates to sex appeal.  So one night, I couldn't bring myself to pick out an outfit for school because nothing looked right, and I could not stop putting myself down. I grabbed my laptop and just started writing down every typical battle friends have told me about, or that I've had while picking out clothes, and I put in it the form of two different characters. That's what it feels like, when you have this low moment and you're staring at your reflection, trying to justify why it's okay to eat junk food or wear something tight against the angry tirade of this inner voice explaining that your legs aren't long enough for that skirt, your stomach looks huge in that or that maybe you should just stay home because you'll be the ugliest girl at the party. Writing it all down helped me realize how absurd, how hateful I can be to myself, and sharing it with others made me realize I'm not alone with this, nearly every girl and woman who's talked to me about it can relate to at least one line. It's both relieving and terrifying. 

2. Which do you prefer most: acting or writing?

The fantastic thing about acting is that you can explore a whole new realm of emotions and experiences that you may never actually explore any other way. As tough as a decision as that is, writing not only lets you explore this new realm, it lets you create it. Writing is an expression of acting in itself, so I'd definitely pick writing.

3. In your bio you talk about taking your first dance classes when you were nine years old. Do you still dance? What styles of dance do you enjoy?

I stopped taking dance classes in my freshman year, but I still continue to dance in school productions. My experience with dance classes definitely contributed to every one of my performances. I couldn't really narrow down a favorite. Musical theater allows you to experience so many different types of dance and merges them together to create something incredible, that the type of dance doesn't matter nearly as much as the effect the performance has. 

4. You have an impressive record of volunteer and community service. Please tell us a little about the programs with whom you work.

I primarily volunteer with my youth group, Saints by the Sea. We strive to help our communities in different ways, but we mainly work with donating food to our church's food kitchen and sending school supplies to needy children. The experience is absolutely incredible, it's so gratifying to watch a group of people come together with bags of bread and cold cuts or boxes of pencils and notebooks and then a couple hours later be able to pack 50-100 sandwiches in lunch bags and deliver them or receive a letter from a teacher explaining that the school children were thrilled by their new coloring books. 

5. If you could tour with any band or celebrity, who would it be?

Scarlet Johansson. She's just an incredible role model and actress. At ComicCon one year, an interviewer was bombarding the males of the Avengers cast with questions concerning redemption arcs and character development, and the reporter turns to Scarlet and asks her about her workout regime and how much weight she had to lose, and she simply refused to answer, saying to her fellow castmate "How come you get the really interesting existential question and I get the like, 'rabbit food' question?" I love that she refuses to release her weight or her diet plan because she wants to encourage confidence rather than a two-week plan. To see a woman like that, who is respected in Hollywood and across the country and still able to shut down anything suggesting sexism or promoting weight loss for the sake of weight loss, isn't exactly common. I'm a huge fan of her, and I'd love to see more men and woman follow in her example.

You can find Kelsey's bio, as well as bios for the other high school playwrights from 2013, on the NJ Young Playwrights Festival at

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

5 Questions with Emma Iacometta

After the Festival in 2013 we asked the four playwrights from the High School division to answer 5 questions about their plays and about themselves. It turns out that those responses were never published, so we are happy to share them with you in the days leading up to the submission deadlines for the 2014 Festival.

We begin with our first playwright, Emma Iacometta.

Emma Iacometta
11th grade, Bergen County Academies
1. What inspired you to write You Definitely Got All That from Your Mother?
I decided to take a playwriting elective at school and, what came with that, was the assignment to write a play. For years, my mother and I have discussed how interesting my life background was, thus I decided to write a play based of my personal family situation. Of course, not every detail is the same, but I wanted the basic outline of the play to be like that of mine to get the word out that "modern" and "progress" families are cool!  

2. What else have you written?
Following the assignment to write a play came the assignment to write a screenplay. I just finished writing a draft of a short film. Other than school assignments, however, I do not write often.

3. In your bio you mention that you are planning a career in stage management. What do you like about being a stage manager?
First of all, I love being organized. To me, there is something so beautiful about a Stage Manager's binder; script, rehearsal reports, lists, cues, all perfectly placed. There is also an important balance that needs to be maintained with friendly authority and professional authority. For a good chunk of the time, you get to be the person who people come to for information and to chat about the show, but there are some moments where you have to lay down the line. The constant shift is exciting. I prefer it to being on stage because, at that point, you have control of the ship. You get the exhilarating feeling of performing in front of people through the cues you call and the set pieces you direct.

4. What other aspects of theatre do you enjoy?
All of them! Everything from set crew to assistant director. I love the little specific, yet incredibly important jobs, such as a dresser and light board operator. In future studies, I hope to learn more about the actual technical parts, such as programming a moving light or understanding a microphone pack. Though I have studied the on-stage things (dance, acting, singing) for years, I want to move on to a pursue everything about the backstage.

5. If you could have three wishes granted, what would they be?
          1. A Boston University acceptance letter.
          2. More cats.
          3. My boyfriend to go to college closer than Chicago.

You can find Emma's bio, as well as bios for the other high school playwrights from 2013, on the NJ Young Playwrights Festival website (linked here).

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Lessons from Sondheim

If you haven't yet seen Six by Sondheim, the HBO original documentary about the life and work of Stephen Sondheim, I highly suggest that you take a look. Or simply do a web search for video of "Sondheim talking" and you are bound to come up with something very interesting and insightful.

In addition to Sondheim's legacy of artistic work is his legacy of educating young artists. In the late 1970s, while in London, Sondheim saw a notice for a young playwrights festival at the Royal Court Theatre under the direction of Gerald Chapman. As president of the Foundation of the Dramatists Guild, Sondheim laid the work for a national young playwrights competition and recruited Chapman to help him launch the first contest in 1981. This program became Young Playwrights, Inc and sparked the rise of similar youth playwriting contests, festivals, and residency programs across the United States. One of these programs was the New Jersey Young Playwrights Contest & Festival, which began in consultation with Chapman and was something of a regional partner with Young Playwrights, Inc in its first few years. Similar opportunities for young playwrights continue to sprout up throughout the country today.

Since watching the documentary a few weeks ago, I've been searching for a clip, or statement that I could share with you. In my research, I found an interview with Sondheim by Rob Weinert-Kendt originally published in American Theatre in April 2011 which I have linked below. In this article, Sondheim talks about his plays, his process, and his influences in a way that also serves as something of a lesson in musical theatre history. I found the section about writing from an "actor's point-of-view" to be particularly interesting as I've often approached my own writing, and the teaching of writers, in the same way. His thoughts on the current state of theatre were interesting, too!

Photo by Richard Termine & from TCG website; linked to article.
(If you have any trouble accessing the link via the photo, you can find the interview on the TCG website here:

Friday, January 3, 2014

Time to write!

Chances are good that you have a snow day today. What should you do with all of that free time? Work on your play, of course!

Thursday, January 2, 2014

National Playwriting Competition at Young Playwrights, Inc. in NYC

If you haven't done so yet, be sure to submit your play to the national young playwrights competition produced by Young Playwrights, Inc in New York City. For more info, click the image below.

Happy writing!

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year! We're excited to read your plays in a few days.

Happy writing!