By Karen Billing
Canyon Crest Academy junior Nachi Baru, 16, has become quite the prolific writer — for the third time winning the Playwrights Project’s California Young Playwrights Contest. His play “American Idyll” will be staged at the Lyceum Theater in Horton Plaza from April 20-29 (as part of Playwrights Project’s 27th Plays by Young Writers festival).
While past plays “The Exploits of Crusher, Mighty Amazonian King” and “In the Stars” were performed as readings in 2007 (Old Globe) and 2010 (Lyceum) respectively, his latest work will be staged as a full production. “American Idyll” has been in rehearsals for the last month with a professional director and actors.
“It’s great because what you imagine while you’re writing is way different than how someone interprets it,” Nachi said. “The actors add their own interpretation and add inflection and character into your words and make it so much better.”
“American Idyll” takes place in a dystopian, future society where reading fiction and using your creativity or imagination is banned.
“What people consider creative is reality TV and tabloids and celebrity-obsessed culture,” said Nachi. “The protagonists are fighting to recapture the soul of what fiction is supposed to be.”
The message of Nachi’s play is pretty clear: he hopes that his fellow high school students will pay less attention to “mindless” reality shows like “Jersey Shore.”
“I don’t think people are reading books as much as they should be and creativity kind of gets sidelined,” Nachi said.
His play imagines what could happen if that trend is taken to the extreme, if people are content to be led by reality shows.
Nachi wrote his first play in the fourth grade during a play-writing residency taught by the Playwrights Project, a nonprofit based in San Diego that tries to encourage young students to express themselves through writing plays and learn about language arts in a fun way.
Nachi has submitted eight plays to the contest and has won three times now.
“I have a few years left under the age limit so I’m going to keep trying,” Nachi said.
Nachi, who also writes short stories and is a member of his school news magazine and science magazine, said that while hopes to keep writing plays, he also wants to start writing in other genres. Ultimately, he’d love to parlay his talent and love of writing into a professional career.
Nachi encourages anyone interested in writing to try out the Playwrights Project’s contest. Even the times he hasn’t won have been a worthwhile experience as each play that doesn’t make it is given a full critique with advice on how to write a better play and get stronger as a writer.
“It’s just a growing experience,” said Nachi. “And to see your words come alive…nothing can beat that.”
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