Aired on KSDS-FM on 1/18/19
RUN DATES: 1/10/19 – 1/26/19
VENUE: Playwrights Project at The Old Globe
The 34 year-old Playwrights Project sends theater teaching artists into schools, to promote literacy by helping students learn to create characters and write plays. And every year, the Project sponsors a statewide student playwriting competition called Plays by Young Writers.
Of the 415 submissions last year, five were chosen as winners. The three written by 16-18 year olds are receiving fully-staged productions. The two by students under age 14 are getting staged readings.
I’m always fascinated to hear what young people have on their minds. The depth and breadth of the subject matter is impressive, as is the way they almost always manage to infuse some humor, no matter how dark the story.
This year, the thematic through-line seems to be outsider status – feeling ignored, unwanted or disparaged.
In “Sea of Fog,” by 16 year old Jack Ventimilia, two high school students who met in a school counseling group, diverge in terms of faith – one is an ardent Christian, the other an atheist. But they both have trouble dealing with anger, fear, and rejection.
“Trash! The Musical,” a prodigious undertaking written and composed by 17 year-old Naomi Melville, is more fanciful – but no less penetrating. The denizens of a dump – a tin can, an old calculator, a doll and a sheaf of paper who doesn’t know who or what she is – lament their status as once-useful items that no one wants any more. The optimistic paper girl, whom they name Trash, turns out to be a discarded piece of writing. She unites the others in reclaiming a sense of their value and worthiness.
Perhaps the most searing of the new plays is “A Mother’s Mother,” by 18 year old Emma Kuli. It’s a heart-rending story about a teen and her mom, each of whom got pregnant at age 17. The young girl, carrying twins, finds condescension and derision everywhere. The shared experiences make for a touching tale.
The writing, direction, performances and design (especially the costumes, sound and sets) are excellent. Anyone of any age would find insight and inspiration in these works.
©2019 PAT LAUNER