Interview: Director Kandace Crystal on bringing Aspiring Writer's Works to the Stage at the PLAYS BY YOUNG WRITERS FESTIVAL

"We need to keep investing time and effort in young playwrights and young theatremakers because they are quite literally our future.  "

By: Jan. 27, 2024
Interview: Director Kandace Crystal on bringing Aspiring Writer's Works to the Stage at the PLAYS BY YOUNG WRITERS FESTIVAL

Interview: Director Kandace Crystal on bringing Aspiring Writer's Works to the Stage at the PLAYS BY YOUNG WRITERS FESTIVAL

The Playwright’s Project celebrates its 39th Annual Plays By Young Writers Festival with new and creative scripts written by California youth.  This festival is dedicated to nurturing new artists and bringing new audiences of all ages to see these new works at school matinees and their public celebrations and performances.  Kandance Crystal the director of this year's new plays talks about the festival, the process it took for these plays to get to the stage, and how working with the students now builds a better theatrical future for us all.

The Plays By Young Writers Festival focuses on younger aspiring playwrights, and after a call for submissions from youths across California, the winning works were then selected to be workshopped, cast, and performed.  The Playwright’s Project is an organization with the mission to empower people through theatre, especially those members of the community who may not had much previous experience with theatre.

Kandace Crystal, a multi-talented director, Craig Noel Award-nominated performer, teaching artist, and more, was part of the selection process reviewing all the submissions, as well as directing and working on the winning pieces with their playwrights and their casts. 

“Plays By Young Writers is unique in that it gives us an inside look at what matters to our young people, how they've coped amid a pandemic and their creative visions for a changing theatrical landscape.  Audiences can expect to laugh, cry, and jam out!  We have four very different pieces in this festival and the talent both on the stage and behind the scenes is sure to impress!”

Written by playwrights from 14 - 17 years old, the plays this year getting staged or full productions include Unauthorized Aid: The Musical by Ian Kim from Glendale, CA,  Forgotten by Camille LaPlantefrom San Diego, CA,  Messy Revenge by Isabella Vallejo and Ayushi Sheth from San Diego, CA, The Spirit Treasure by Cyrus King Mia Roberts-Blanco, and Elise Matthews from San Diego, CA.

Interview: Director Kandace Crystal on bringing Aspiring Writer's Works to the Stage at the PLAYS BY YOUNG WRITERS FESTIVAL

Crystal, who was not a judge for submissions last year, says that her process of doing  both adjudicating and directing  this year brought additional depth to her experience working with these young writers.

“Being a judge this year was something I felt compelled to do as I chose not to last year. Coming in from the start of the competitions helps me see Plays By Young Writers in a more full picture and also notice common trends and themes.  When I say this next generation of talent is going places, I mean it!  The care and craft that went into each submission with such interesting themes--coming off of COVID we definitely saw a ton of scripts around death, grief, and absurdism.  We also saw lots of fun and joy and I wanted a good mix, which I feel we achieved”

This process also brought a new perspective to the young writers, who may not have had the opportunity to work with theatre professionals revising, discussing, and sometimes disagreeing on things as the piece heads for the stage, Crystal says every year this part of the process is always rewarding and allows these young artists a glimpse into how to work, advocate for, and collaborate on their show.

“This is my third set of new plays in the past year and it is always a different experience.  The best part of this process is the dramaturgs/writing mentors and their commitment to fostering a script that follows the playwright's vision.  It can be hard to push back when you don't agree with your director, now add the layer of being a kid to that and it's a whole other battle.  I love being able to have dramaturgs in the rehearsal room who are advocating for their playwrights. It's the literal magic that happens when something we say clearly sparks an idea and they scurry off to make their script even better.  That's something you only get through a process like this.”

Outside of this project, Kandace is also a teaching artist, and working with people of all ages on enjoying and working on theatre.  She says that working with young and emerging artists and helping them grow into the best version of themselves who are willing to find and use their voice.

“I am a huge believer in cultivating our next generation of theatre makers!  I love having young playwrights find their voice in the midst of our process.  In a world where we don't always welcome the youth voice, I want them to feel most comfortable being their whole selves in the room with me.  There's no better feeling than watching a young person maintain their autonomy.  We may not always see eye to eye and that's okay.  Let's work together and make a beautiful piece of art.

We need to keep investing time and effort in young playwrights and young theatremakers because they are quite literally our future.  Theatre is about the collective, let's stop leaving future generations out of the conversation.”

How To Get Tickets

The Plays By Young Writers Festival will be performed at school matinees from January 31 - Feb 2, and then will have a public celebration and performance at The Salvation Army’s Joan B. Kroc Theatre on February 3rd at 7:30 pm.  For ticket and showtime information please go to the link below.

Photo Credit:  Kandace Crystal




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