Former Playwrights Theatre Contest Winners Receive New Honors

Four previous Playwrights Theatre New Jersey Young Playwrights Contest winners have recently accumulated additional writing honors in regional and national playwriting competitions.

Emma Baxter, who was a Finalist in the High School Division in 2015 for her play THE PERKS OF A DOORMAN BUILDING, a Finalist in the Junior High School Division in 2013 for PADDYWAGON, a Winner in the Junior High School division in 2012 for IT ALWAYS WOULD and a Honorable Mention in the Elementary Division in 2011, was selected to participate in Paula Vogel Mentors Project at Philadelphia Young Playwrights. The NJ Young Playwrights program spurred on Emma's writing: "I received my first recognition in playwriting in seventh grade as one of the winners of the NJ Young Playwrights contest. Seeing my words come to life on stage via a reading by professional actors was magical. I was hooked! This inspired me to keep writing; I have developed a passion for dramatic writing and am considering it as a college major and career," she said. This is the first year that Philadelphia Young Playwrights has opened the program to young writers outside of Philadelphia and Emma was chosen to represent the Northeast region.

2015 New Jersey Young Playwrights winner, Rebecca Lewis, was also the Junior Division winner for her play BLIND FAITH in the national Kennedy Center's 2015 VSA Playwright Discovery Competition, an annual competition where middle and high school students use the art of script writing to examine the disability experience.

Philip Anastassiou and Alexa Derman, Playwrights Theatre's New Jersey Young Playwrights winners in 2013 and 2014 respectively, are among the winning playwrights in the national Young Playwrights, Inc. 2015 National Playwriting Competition. They will be traveling to New York for the Young Playwrights Conference where they will work with theater professionals and hear their plays read in the Young Playwrights Inc. Off-Broadway Reading Series. For Philip, the NJ Young Playwrights experience was a bridge to his future: "My time at NJYPF was a significant moment for me in deciding to pursue playwriting in college and, as I hope, beyond. It was the first time I ever had the experience of observing a group of people I had no prior connection to work on a script of mine, which made an enormous impression on me as a young writer. Seeing an ensemble of adult theatre artists seriously wrestle with my thoughts, interpret my intentions, and translate it to the stage for the first time was simultaneously exhilarating and terrifying, but I discovered then that it was a process I wanted to be a part of for the rest of my life."

The accessibility of the NJ Young Playwrights contest was important to Alexa; in her words, "So many of my most formative experiences as a playwright flung me far away -- to LA, to NYC -- or came from places that seemed distant and exciting and totally inaccessible until I was an adult. With NJ Young Playwrights, family and friends attended my reading. The rehearsals happened a half hour away. Artistic exploration didn't have to be something that I would get eventually, once I got to move to Hollywood or New York. It could be something I experienced right now, in Jersey, a quick drive away."

"It is great to see these writers receive recognition beyond their work in our playwriting residencies and with the New Jersey Young Playwrights Festival," said Jim DeVivo, Director of Education for Playwrights Theatre. "What is more exciting is that the playwrights have continued to write and share their voices with a larger audience!"

For 33 years, the New Jersey Young Playwrights Contest and Festival has been deepening the writing experience for young playwrights by providing entrants with detailed feedback from professional theatre artists about their plays. The NJYPF selects plays from hundreds of submission and presents them as staged readings with professional actors and directors. Selected playwrights meet with their director/dramaturg to discuss the play and work on possible revisions. Winning plays are presented during the New Jersey Young Playwrights Festival annually in Spring.

"We are very proud of the national and regional awards these students are receiving," said John Pietrowski, Playwrights Theatre's Artistic Director. "Not only is it a recognition of the talented and creative young people who reside in New Jersey, it is also a confirmation that the careful work we do with the students on the NJ Young Playwrights Festival inspires them and expands their skills into further work, and quite possibly, a career. With the VSA Program in Washington, DC, this is our second winner in three years. We are very excited to see New Jersey students successfully tackling disability issues in plays."

Playwrights Theatre is currently accepting submissions for the 33rd Annual New Jersey Young Playwrights Contest and Festival. Plays are accepted in the following divisions: Elementary (grades 4-6), Junior High (grades 7-9), High School (grades 10-12), and Living With Disabilities (grades 6-12). Interested young playwrights must submit their plays online at The entry deadline for all divisions is 11:59pm on December 18, 2015. For complete details and submission guidelines, visit, or contact Jim DeVivo, Direction of Education at 973-514-1787 X21 or, or visit the New Jersey Young Playwrights Blog at or on Facebook at

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