Friday, October 23, 2015

Congratulations to four of our NJ Young Playwrights

A scene from Good News! by Philip Anastassiou (2013)
This month we are thrilled to congratulate four young playwrights from New Jersey who have achieved regional and national recognition for their work.

Alexa Derman (NJYPF 2014) and Philip Anastassiou (NJYPF 2013) wrote plays that were selected for production in the 2016 National Playwriting Competition at Young Playwrights, Inc. This is a repeat honor for Alexa who received this award in 2015, as well.

Emma Q. Baxter (NJYPF 2012) was selected for a fellowship in the third annual Paula Vogel Mentors Project at Philadelphia Young Playwrights for 2016. Emma had a series of plays honored in the NJ Young Playwrights Festivals since 2011, but has also been a student at Playwrights Theatre during our summer playwriting courses.

Emma Q. Baxter at work in the Playwriting Workshop (Summer 2013)
Last year, Rebecca Lewis wrote the play BLIND FAITH during an in-school residency taught by a teaching artist from Playwrights Theatre. This play was chosen as a winning script in the Junior High School Division of the national Playwright Discovery Competition run by VSA at the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC. Becca's play will also be produced in a new festival of student-written work at her school this December.

You can read more about these four playwrights and their awards here.

Monday, October 5, 2015

Getting Started

The school year is well underway, which means many young playwrights have begun, or will soon begin, writing a play that will be submitted to the New Jersey Young Playwrights Festival. One of the biggest challenges in this work is getting started, or more specifically, deciding what to write about.

I originally began writing this post on August 26 while observing a playwriting workshop taught by playwright and master teaching artist, Dominique Cieri, for a group of teachers from the Madison Public Schools. Dominique has been a teaching artist with Playwrights Theatre for many years and it was in a workshop that she taught there that I've pulled a number of ideas and techniques that I use in my own writing and teaching. In fact, you will find other exercises from Dominique in previous posts on this blog (particularly this one)!

There was one activity from the teacher workshop that I felt could be helpful to those of you beginning to write that centers around what Dominique refers to as "the Passover Question": What makes today different from any other day in the character's life? The idea here is that we write a play because of an important event that happens in a character's life. As a result, the action of the play begins with the average, everyday life of the character, which is then interrupted by an emergency that needs to be address, or an opportunity that must be taken. To get to this idea, it is helpful to look at similar "life-changing" and challenging moments from your own life. So that this doesn't become a biographical play, I suggest imagining that you are watching this event happen to another person and write about it in the present tense. Record everything that you sense (see, hear, etc.) in that moment.

Some of Dominique's other suggestions included the following:

  1. Write about a fantasy, or dream, that you have.
  2. Write five facts about yourself that you know to be true.
  3. Write five facts about the universe (these don't necessarily need to be true).
Something from this list is likely to prompt an idea for a story. We also collect a variety of writing prompts on our Pinterest page, which may be of use to you. The main thing is to find an idea that interests you and to start writing. Don't get frustrated if you can't seem to hit on something right away. The important thing is to keep thinking and to keep writing. And don't throw any ideas away - you never know when something you decided not to write about may be helpful to get you through a place where you're stuck later on in the process.

Good luck and happy writing!