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Playwrights Project Will Present Its 37th Annual Plays By Young Writers Festival In January

The celebration and screening takes place January 22, 2022 at 7:00 PM at the Museum of Photographic Arts.

Playwrights Project Will Present Its 37th Annual Plays By Young Writers Festival In January

Playwrights Project will present its 37th annual Plays by Young Writers Festival showcasing new scripts written by youth across California. This year's Festival will be presented with filmed performances offered virtually to the public and an in-person screening of the filmed performance to celebrate the young playwrights. On-demand streaming will be available for teachers to share with students along with an Education Packet detailing writing prompts and discussion questions for each play. This year's scripts were written by five young writers between the ages of 13 and 17.

Playwrights Project's Executive Director Cecelia Kouma said, "Plays by Young Writers offers young playwrights a rewarding opportunity to work alongside professional theatre artists to bring their writing to life in creative ways. This season features imaginative journeys and self-discoveries as writers contemplate self-identity, the value of connection, and the need for creative escape from the routines of daily life. These young writers have words of wisdom for all of us, regardless of our age. It is an honor to hear their insights and amplify the voices of these inspiring young leaders."

Each of these young writers is a winner of Playwrights Project's California Young Playwrights Contest, and their plays will be featured in Playwrights Project's 37th annual Plays by Young Writers Festival, sponsored by the Sheila and Jeffrey Lipinsky Family Fund and Mandell Weiss Charitable Trust. Contest winners were selected from 276 plays submitted by students from across the state. Three scripts will receive full professional productions and one script will receive a staged reading.

All contest submissions were evaluated, void of identifying information, by Rachael VanWormer (Contest Coordinator) and a pool of theatre professionals who volunteered their time and expertise. The top 43 scripts were reviewed by Cecelia Kouma (Executive Producer), who worked with the Contest Coordinator to choose 10 finalists whose plays were evaluated by Final Judges. Final Judges in the selection process included Peter Cirino (Co-Founder of TuYo Theatre and SDSU Theatre faculty), Ahmed Kenyatta Dents (Director of Venue Experience & Artistic Associate at San Diego REP), Josefina López (Award-Winning Playwright & Plays by Young Writers Alumna), Annie Weisman (Award-Winning Playwright & Plays by Young Writers Alumna) and George Yé (Mesa College Theatre faculty & multi-faceted theatre artist). Yé, Kouma, and VanWormer chose the final plays for the season based on the judges' feedback and interviews of the top finalists.

Selection criteria focused on creative ideas, intriguing and authentic characters, original use of language, a story that is revealed through dialogue and action, producibility online, and a script that would benefit from further development in the production process. All contest participants who requested feedback received individualized written critiques.

To ensure the safety of our audience in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, Playwrights Project has moved the production of Plays by Young Writers online. The actors and artistic team will meet in-person to perform the plays and a video will be created for public viewing. We are pleased to continue this annual tradition as a hybrid virtual event, permitting us the unique opportunity to welcome audience members from San Diego and beyond. Playwrights Project is committed to bringing playwriting programs and quality theatrical productions to all members of our community, including those who may not see themselves as writers or conventional theatregoers. For student audiences, Plays by Young Writers is an inspiring opportunity to experience art written by their peers. Watching what other young people create and communicate through theatre is an empowering experience that leads to additional arts engagement and enhanced academic achievement.

The Festival features work by writers ages 13 and younger as staged readings, and works by ages 14-18 as full professional productions.

In Declan Kallberg's insightful and timely script Boxed In, decades have passed since COVID-19, but society still lives isolated from one another confined to their apartments. Neighbors Charles and Emily communicate nightly via screens, but Charles longs for a more human connection. This is Declan's second time winning the California Young Playwrights Contest, after his play Dub Thee Fear was produced in last year's Festival. Declan, age 14, is the youngest playwright to receive a full production in this year's Festival. Final Judge Annie Weisman said, "Bravo to this writer for engaging in a real philosophic debate that also felt emotional and funny and real and very, dare I say, human. A thoughtful and thought provoking piece!" Declan lives in Temecula, California, and attends Western Center Academy. He has been involved in youth theatre productions, classes, and camps since he was seven years old. Contest Coordinator, actor, and Plays by Young Writers alum Rachael VanWormer serves as dramaturg for Boxed In.

Petunia, by 15 year-old San Dieguito Academy student Ana Cabrera follows the journey of a flower who has roots on both side of the Mexico and United States border. In this allegory of a family separated by the border, Petunia struggles with feelings of isolation as the only mixed race flower in her community, and explores the meaning of identity and belonging. Final Judge Peter Cirino said of Petunia, "Tremendously deep concept... casting flowers as the people of a border region and showing how human nature is in a constant state of migration just as the blooms are." Ana, a Cardiff resident, first wrote Petunia in a Playwrights Project summer camp taught by Aleta Barthell in collaboration with New Village Arts Theatre. Ana was a semi-finalist in last year's California Young Playwrights Contest and has shown her dedication to writing by entering scripts into the Contest over multiple years. In addition to honing her writing skills, Ana performs with Fusion Dance Solana Beach Competition Team and is a member of SDA's Spanish Honors Society. Rachael VanWormer & Playwrights Project Program Manager and Teaching Artist Nicole Hernandez serve as co-dramaturgs for Petunia.

Has life ever felt so monotonous and overwhelming that you wanted to escape? In Jacqueline Vellandi's play Reverie, three students escape mundane realities through a collective daydream. Will a life of endless fun be as carefree as it seems? Seventeen-year-old Jacqueline wrote her script while attending Orange County School of the Arts. Final Judge Annie Weisman said of Reverie, "I just loved this piece so much! It was playful, whimsical and deeply moving... It feels very organic. A powerful and hugely relevant piece of writing." Jacqueline resides in Ladera Ranch and is a member of the Girl Scouts of Orange County, OCSA Thespian Troupe 6826, and the National Honor Society. Jacqueline is also an accomplished songwriter, and released an album on October 22, 2021. Rhianna Basore, Teaching Artist and actor, supports Jacqueline dramaturgically.

This year's staged reading is The Jealous Soccer Ball co-written by Yaseen Issa and Ahmed Al Hashimi, both age 13. A school yard soccer ball feels jealous and lonely when kids ignore him in favor of his basketball friend. How will he achieve his GOOOAAAAL? Yaseen and Ahmed wrote their script as part of a Playwrights Project Residency in Melanie Ellis's class at Hillsdale Middle School taught by Teaching Artist Tori Rice. The co-authors' writing is sincere in examining what it means to look at the world through another person's perspective, becoming a compassionate and accepting friend. Actor Julia Giolzetti serves as dramaturg for The Jealous Soccer Ball.

In-Person Public Celebration & Screening - January 22, 2022 at 7:00 PM at the Museum of Photographic Arts. Virtual public performances - January 28 & 29, 2022 at 7:00 PM.

Tickets: $50 public screening and reception with the playwrights
$20 per household to stream at home; Pay what you can options available.

Schools: Free streaming Online - January 31 through February 13, 2022

Ticketing & Information at
For more information, please contact

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