‘Plays by Young Writers’ showcase to take place virtually for the first time

The five winners of Playwrights Project’s 2020 California Young Playwrights Contest
The five winners of Playwrights Project’s 2020 California Young Playwrights Contest, clockwise from top left, Kaya Dierks, Declan Kallberg, Jordan Marie Finley, Arely Gomez Hernandez and Sarina Hegli.
(Screen capture from Zoom)

For the first time in its history, the nonprofit Playwrights Project will hold an online version of its annual “Plays by Young Writers” showcase from March 11-26.

“We are excited with the opportunity to perform over the internet, even though we really miss being in person,” said Cecelia Kouma, executive director of the Playwrights Project.

The featured writers were the winners of the California Young Playwrights Contest. Out of 243 plays submitted by young writers across the state, four were selected for full production and one for a reading by professional actors.

Entries were judged based on factors including creativity, characters, dialogue and ability to produce them on Zoom.

“We were really looking for something that gives us a sense that the writer had a connection to the material and that they are caring about these characters, and creating some rich characters that have depth and interesting problems.”

One of the productions in this year’s showcase is “Controversy in the Comments Section” by Canyon Crest Academy senior Sarina Hegli.

“I was inspired to write this play because of my love-hate (but mostly hate) relationship with the community application Nextdoor, on which people feel free to be so unpleasant, it’s almost comical,” Hegli, 16, said in a statement.

All submissions were reviewed by contest coordinator Rachael VanWormer and a group of volunteer theater professionals. Kouma helped review the top 50 scripts, and passed the top 10 to a panel of judges that included local theater professionals and former Plays by Young Writers participants.

“Every year it’s an amazing journey into the mind, into the psyche of a young person, because we get to see so many different stories unfold,” Kouma said.

Program A, which is suitable for ages 11 and up, includes Sarina’s “Controversy in the Comments Section,” “Dub Thee Fear” by Declan Kallberg, 13, of Temecula and a staged reading of “The Fight for a Dream” by Arely Gomez Hernandez, 13, of City Heights.

Program B, which is suitable for ages 16 and up, includes productions of “The Love Project” by Jordan Marie Finley, 18, of San Diego and “Forward” by Kaya Dierks, 17, of San Francisco.

The public performances will take place on March 11-12, followed by a closing ceremony on March 13. Recordings of the shows will be available free to schools from March 15-26.

Tickets are $20 per household for the public performances and $30 for the closing ceremony.

For more information, visit playwrightsproject.org/productions/pbyw.