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Five new 'works' chosen

April 4, 2014

What does it mean to be human? Famous? Free? Irredeemable?

The judges found some surprising answers to these and other immortal questions among this year’s Thespian Playworks and Musicalworks submissions—seventy-three student-written scripts and eight prospective musicals from across the country and as far away as Dubai. After much deliberation, the contest results are in.

The Playworks panel has chosen four winning finalists in the Educational Theatre Association’s annual competition and script-development program, sponsored by play publisher Samuel French, Inc., and run by Dramatics. A separate panel selected a single work for the Musicalworks program, which is now in its second year, sponsored by Theatrical Rights Worldwide.

These outstanding entries are now slated for staging at the Thespian Festival 2014, June 23-28 in Lincoln, Nebraska, where the student authors will work with professional playwrights, directors, and corps of actors (and in the case of the musical theatre program, a music director) to put their scripts on their feet:

What We Talk About When We Talk About Planned Parenthood, an unflinching two-character study by Alexa Derman, Troupe 7582, Westfield (New Jersey) High School. What’s left to say, Derman’s play asks, when a young couple has done the unspeakable?

The Trial of Adbot Five-Seven-Nine, a fresh, near-futuristic courtroom drama—by Francis Bass, Troupe 1429, Leon High School, Tallahassee, Florida—that pushes some classic sci-fi buttons.

This Play Is About Pirates: An Autobiography, by Caleigh Derreberry, Troupe 3678, Brookwood High School, Lilburn, Georgia, in which a sea-weary buccaneer confronts his clueless younger self.

And from the sea-battered cliffs of Irish legend comes Skin, a reimagined Selkie fable by Derick Edgren, Troupe 386, Auburn High School, Rockford, Illinois.

This year’s Musicalworks winner is Balloon Boy: The Musical, with book, music, and lyrics by Billy Recce, Troupe 7097, Hauppauge (N.Y.) High School. Inspired by true events in Fort Collins, Colorado, in 2009, Recce’s satirical musical-in-the-making centers on the mad scientist father of three sons and their quest for fame via reality TV. Like the Playworks finalists, Reece will work with professional mentors and a Thespian cast to develop Balloon Boy and stage an excerpt at the Festival.

Honorable mention

Five other plays were named semifinalists in the Playworks program:

The Lobby, by Lydia Haile, Troupe 7672, Valley High School, Las Vegas, Nevada. This play, a late-night character study set in a hospital waiting room, scored highest of the semifinalists, so Haile will be the first alternate in case one of this year’s winners is unable to participate in the Festival workshop.

The Complexities of Attempting to Rescue a Wife from Apparently Comfortable Surroundings, a sly update of an ancient Hindu myth, by Disha Samaiyar, Troupe 5049, American School of Dubai, United Arab Emirates.

Sailor’s Knot: A Play in Six Movements, a poetic, seaborne love story by Victoria Capraro, Troupe 5869, Denver School of the Arts.

Star-Crossed: Breaking up Romeo and Juliet, a time-bending comedy that grants the famed lovers a somewhat happier ending, by Julia E. Toney, Troupe 6151, Ronald Reagan High School, San Antonio, Texas.

And finally, a play that’s actually about everyone in the audience (sort of): The Story of You, by Mateo Correa, Troupe 5869, Denver School of the Arts in Colorado.

“The contest has grown to attract serious writing interest,” commented Playworks judge and director Joe Norton, from New York City, one of several professionals joining the Dramatics/EdTA staff in evaluating this year’s submissions. “I’m just so impressed… These pieces are all really good, for different reasons.”

For more on Thespian Playworks and Musicalworks, including how students may participate this year or in future programs, visit Schooltheatre.org. Stage managers, designers and other backstage types interested in positions on the Playworks Dream Team should contact Julie York Coppens.