Tuesday, May 26, 2015

5 Questions with Betsy Zaubler

We begin our 2015 series of "5 Questions with a Playwright" focusing on the four playwrights whose plays have been selected in the High School Division of the NJ Young Playwrights Festival. First up, is Betsy Zaubler from Newark Academy in Livingston. We asked Betsy to answer five questions about her play or about herself and here are her answers:

Betsy Zaubler
Newark Academy, Livingston
1. What inspired you to write Thanksgiving Surprise?

I was inspired to write Thanksgiving Surprise because of the stories about teenagers who come out to their families and are not accepted.  Often, it seems as if the coming out is harder on the family than the person actually coming out.  While these stories are a sad reality, they are not they only reality.  What I wanted to show with Thanksgiving Surprise is that coming out (whether it's as gay, lesbian, transgender etc.) is not always a negative family experience, that there are accepting and embracing families.  I wanted to explore the emotional experience of a teenager coming out in that situation, because even with an accepting family, coming out can be a complex and difficult process.

2. Congratulations on your selection as the Poetry Out Loud winner from you school this year. What poems did you perform as part of the POL competition and why did you choose them? 

For my school competition, I performed "John Lennon" by Mary Jo Salter.  I chose this poem because I love music and it explored how even though people can feel so connected to an artist through their music, they really know nothing about them.  For the regional competition, I performed "Solitude" by Ella Wheeler Wilcox and "The Universe as Primal Scream," by Tracy K. Smith.  I chose "Solitude" because it allowed me to use my acting skills more than the other poems, and I chose "The Universe as Primal Scream" because I liked how it contrasted biblical and scientific theories.

3. When did you start studying Spanish and what do you most look forward to doing in Spain?

I started studying Spanish in 6th grade.  This summer, I'm really excited to live with a host family and be fully immersed in Spanish culture.  I'm also excited to visit Barcelona, which everyone tells me is an amazing city.

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

My most memorable theater experience has been directing a children's play at Studio Players, a community theater in Montclair.  It was interesting to see a completely different side of theater and I learned a lot about acting by working with my cast and noticing things that you don't always notice as an actor.  

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 have dinner with Billie Joe Armstrong, who is the lead singer and the principal songwriter in Green Day.  I would ask him, specifically with regard to the album American Idiot, how he wrote songs that connected so powerfully to so many people, and how he articulated, with such impact, how people were feeling about America at that time.  


The 2015 New Jersey Young Playwrights Festival will take place on June 1st (Junior HS & Elementary plays) and June 2nd (High School plays) on the Florham campus of Fairleigh Dickinson University. You can use these links to make reservations for the June 1 or June 2 performances, or call the PTNJ Education office at 973-514-1787, ext. 21. The Festival is free; however, seating is extremely limited.