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BWW Blog: Cassandra Hsiao - The Journey Begins: 2016 California Young Playwright Winners Announced

Rewrites. A word that stares writers down as the cursor blinks expectantly. This is the immense task I am facing-and an assignment I would not trade for the world.

I remember receiving the news that I had been chosen as one of the finalists to receive a full production for the California Young Playwrights Contest, out of 385 contest submissions evaluated blindly by a pool of theatre professionals. I remember the shock and ecstasy at the thought of experiencing words leaping off a page and characters jumping to life on a stage once again. I remember the phone call with Executive Producer Cecelia Kouma and Artistic Festival Director Ruff Yeager, and how that conversation delved deep into my play exploring ideas and potential character development I never imagined.

On October 1, I stepped into a green room covered in doodles of beloved Dr. Seuss characters on the walls. Aptly named, the "Seuss" room at the Globe Theater in San Diego, I thought it was the perfect location for a table read of my play "Supermarket of Lost." I sat down at a long table next to producers, directors, stage managers, costume designers, light and Sound Designers, and actors to begin producing my one-act play that I hope matches the whimsicality of Seuss.

I know I have my work cut out for me. My play takes place in a cosmic universe, where the rules are completely flexible. Every line, every beat of the conversation, every confession must be earned and add something new to the play. Rewrites will most likely result in copies of my script with different crossed out portions, highlighted lines, stage directions scribbled in the margin, and many post-it notes. This is the beginning of a rich, rewarding journey that I have the honor of embarking on accompanied by an artistic team of visionaries, and I simply can't wait to begin.

Playwrights Project will produce its 32nd annual festival of Plays by Young Writers, sponsored by the Sheila and Jeffrey Lipinsky Family Fund, at The Sheryl and Harvey White Theatre in the Conrad Prebys Theatre Center at The Old Globe on January 19 - January 29, 2017. The festival will feature winning scripts from its California Young Playwrights Contest for ages 18 and under. Four scripts will receive full professional productions, and two scripts will receive staged readings in this highly regarded festival of new voices.

The Festival is divided into Program A (appropriate for ages 11+) and Program B (for ages 16+). Each program includes one staged reading and two full productions. Two acting ensembles will present the two different programs, with actors playing multiple roles.

Program A for ages 11 and up

Full Productions Playwrights

Supermarket of Lost Cassandra Hsiao, age 16, Walnut

Hackathon Eliana Dunn, age 16, Pacifica

Staged Reading Playwrights

Turtle on a Rock Absinthe McDonald, age 12, San Diego

In Supermarket of Lost* two teenagers and a young girl meet by chance in a mysterious warehouse where you can recover what you've lost in exchange for something of equal value. As their friendship develops, they discover a compelling difference between what we lose and what we choose to give away. The play was written by Cassandra Hsiao, at age 16, while attending Orange County School of the Arts. George Yè will direct and dramaturg this thought provoking play.

*Originally produced in The Blank Theatre Young Playwrights Festival, Los Angeles, CA.

Set in Silicon Valley, the witty satire Hackathon examines issues of gentrification and bias in the tech industry, as teenagers from different walks of life compete to create an app that will change the world. When the names of the finalists were revealed to the producers, they were surprised and delighted to learn that Hackathon was written by 16 year old Eliana Salzer Dunn, who is the granddaughter of Playwrights Project's Founder Deborah Salzer. Eliana attends City College of San Francisco; George Yè will direct and Mabelle Reynoso will dramaturg.

In Turtle on a Rock, an unfulfilled turtle sings of his longing to find his purpose in life. Playwright Absinthe McDonald, age 12, took part in a playwriting residency in Mr. Lindsey's class at Creative Media and Performing Arts School in Clairemont led by Teaching Artist Wendy Waddell, where she composed her winning script. Erika Beth Phillips, Playwrights Project's Program Manager of School Programs, will direct Turtle on a Rock and Deborah Salzer will serve as the dramaturg/writing mentor.

Program B for ages 16 and up

Full Productions Playwrights

The Dumping Ground Matthew Maceda, age 17, Rancho Peñasquitos

Pros and Cons Katie Taylor, age 18, Woodlake

Staged Reading Playwrights

A Play on Words Samantha Rafter, age 14, San Diego

Minh-Son Tran, age 13, San Diego

The Dumping Ground depicts the story of Mark, a high school student whose promposal is publicly rebuffed in front of his peers. As he struggles to make sense of his rejection, he learns valuable life lessons from supportive mentors. Playwright Matthew Maceda attends Westview High School in Poway, and this is Matthew's fifth play to win the contest. Three of his plays received staged readings and Coffee, Cream and Closure received a full production in 2015. The Dumping Ground will be directed by Monique Gaffney, prominent local actor.

Pros and Cons is a clever farce about formerly incarcerated friends who reunite for a fresh start as they reenter society. Despite their altruistic efforts, old habits die hard and whacky escapades ensue. In the playwright's words, "the road to comedy is paved with good intentions." Katie Taylor, who penned the play, lives in Woodlake where she attends College of the Sequoias. Pros and Cons will be directed by Phil Johnson, and Ruff Yeager will dramaturg.

A Play on Words by Samantha Rafter and Minh-Son Tran, introduces Patrick a piece of math homework, Patricia a pretty pencil, and Eileen an introverted eraser, as they experience an existential crises during Spring Break. Samantha and Minh-Son wrote their winning script in a playwriting program at Black Mountain Middle School, which was taught by Teaching Artist Wendy Waddell in Ms. Gapusan's Language Arts class.

About Playwrights Project:

Playwrights Project advances literacy, creativity and communication by empowering individuals to voice their stories through playwriting programs and theatre productions.

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high res photos

BWW Blog: Cassandra Hsiao - The Journey Begins: 2016 California Young Playwright Winners Announced
Playwrights Matthew Maced, Cassandra Hsiao, Katie Taylor, Eliana Dunn, Minh-Son Tran, Samantha Rafter and Absinthe McDonald. Courtesy of Playwrights Project.

BWW Blog: Cassandra Hsiao - The Journey Begins: 2016 California Young Playwright Winners Announced
Cassandra Hsiao in front of The Sheryl and Harvey White Theatre in the Conrad Prebys Theatre Center at The Old Globe. Courtesy of Cassandra Hsiao.

BWW Blog: Cassandra Hsiao - The Journey Begins: 2016 California Young Playwright Winners Announced

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