DCPA Education announces winners of its eighth annual AT&T High School Playwriting Competition


In 2013, the Denver Center for the Performing Arts’ Education team launched a high school playwriting program to nurture Colorado’s young writers, cultivate theatre artists and audiences, develop new plays, and advance literacy, creativity, writing and communication through playwriting.

Since its inception, the workshops and competition have impacted more than 25,000 students.

Due to its growing popularity, it was expanded to middle school students in the fall of 2020. The program offers free playwriting workshops and professional review of all one-act play submissions.

This year, the DCPA received 129 total submissions — 75 from high school students and 54 from middle school students. After careful review by a panel of artistic, literary and education professionals, DCPA Education is pleased to announce the winners of the 2021 AT&T High School Playwriting Competition:


Winners receive a $250 DCPA Education scholarship, script development with a professional director and dramaturg, inclusion of their script in the 2021 Playwriting Anthology, and a live streamed reading of their play to be broadcast from the Seawell Ballroom on May 1, at 2pm – WATCH HERE

Conrad Branch, Sophomore: East High School

One Last Present

The play in a Tweet: When a bitter old man learns of his granddaughter’s sickness, he must put aside his hate for Christmas and turn his factory into Santa’s Toy Shop for one last present.

What is something you discovered about yourself while writing your play?: I was able to find out how to cover deep meaningful subjects such as mortality while also being able to balance light hearted comedy and fantasy – two worlds that feel even better together!

What actor would you cast: David Hyde Pierce as [financial advisor] Mr. Flake because he knows how to play a character who is just almost barely a normal human but isn’t quite succeeding at it.

What’s going on here!? Have I entered an alternate dimension!? Where’s the stale smell of spam and hopelessness? Where is my enraged grizzly bear of a boss?  It’s all been replaced by Santa Claus, peppermint and worst of all… bright colors.” — Conrad’s favorite line from One Last Present

Marina Leo, Junior: Denver School of the Arts

Bird of Paradise

The play in a Tweet: The ideal woman lives in her father’s swimming pool, defeats all those who cross.

What is something you discovered about yourself while writing your play?: I now know the characters I most enjoy writing are those unconstrained by context– anachronism and un-naturalism are just additional communication devices! Without them I don’t think I could quite say what I mean.

What actor would you cast: Edie Sedgwick is so enchanting and of a time! Her as Maggie.

“I don’t really have a favorite line that works as a standalone!” — Marina’s response for her favorite line from Bird of Paradise

Ruthie McBride, Junior: Salida High School

The Bathroom Love Potion

The play in a Tweet: A quirky high school romance that is cheesy, but lighthearted and fun!

What is something you discovered about yourself while writing your play?: While writing this play, I discovered that it can be really fun to put your own voice and personality into different characters and express yourself. I put my sense of humor and love for rom-coms into this play and I’m happy with how it turned out.

What actor would you cast: I would cast Tom Holland as the main character, Reid, because Tom does a fantastic job at being the incredibly awkward teenage boy, which is perfect for Reid.

“Marjorie, you brought your pet rat to school and said it could talk to you.” — Ruthie’s favorite line from The Bathroom Love Potion



Winners will have their play included in the 2021 Playwriting Anthology.

Greta Bellamy: Girls Athletic Leadership Schools (GALS)

Will You Come to My Wedding

The play in a Tweet: Chloe and Lia, newly engaged, visit Chloe’s grandma to ask her a simple question with complicated ramifications.

What is something you discovered about yourself while writing your play?: I can express my beliefs while weaving a heart-warming, relatable story.

What actor would you cast: I would want Zendaya (Spider-Man, The Greatest Showman, Euphoria) as Lia. She is very bold and confident which is how I would describe Lia.

“Practicing over and over in her head what she was gonna say. She did that for you! That’s how much she wanted you to come. Her speech had to be perfect. She finally got up the courage to come down here and what did you do?! You shut the door in her face!” — Greta’s favorite line from Will You Come to My Wedding

Sam Routzon: STEM School Highlands Ranch

Silver Storm

The play in a Tweet: Silver Storm is a tale of love and warmth. It has a mystery, and only as you indulge in it will you uncover the magic tucked away inside.

What is something you discovered about yourself while writing your play?: I found that warmth can be found in the cold as well. And in order to make it through the harder times of life, we have to remember the better ones. Winter, in this story, symbolizes the hard times this pair is going through trying to cope with the loss of the Grandfather.

What actor would you cast: I would cast Frances Conroy as the Grandmother. In every work she is in, she exuberates versatility and can play a variety of characters. I feel she has a very comforting vibe you would get from a grandmother.

What is your favorite line from your play? “It just happens darling. And sometimes we just have to accept the way things are. Sometimes there isn’t an explanation for things we don’t understand. Every now and then we just have to make do with the information we are provided, and go from there.”

Sarah Zhou: Summit Middle School
Elyse Prestopnik: Flagstaff Academy

The New Kids

The play in a Tweet:
Elyse & Sarah: Ev is having trouble making friends, so she turns to her brother. In the end, she does make a friend with similar interests!

What is something you discovered about yourself while writing your play?:
Elyse: I learned that it’s hard to write a play about something I haven’t experienced.
Sarah: I learned that it’s kind of hard to write a play.

What actor would you cast:
Elyse: I would cast Jack DeSena as Elmer because he is such an amazing actor and he is super funny, and also I think the way he acts and says things would be perfect for Elmer.
Sarah: The voice actor of Sokka from Avatar: The Last Airbender (Jack DeSena), as Elmer, since they have similar personalities and I think his voice would fit well.

“Are you ever going to stop calling me that? Like, are you gonna be 99, and I’ll be 100, and we’ll be knitting side by side, and you’ll go, “Elmer’s Glue, pass the blue yarn please?” —Elyse & Sarah’s favorite line from The New Kids

After development and rehearsal with professional actors and DCPA Teaching Artists, the reading of the three High School winning plays will be live streamed from the Seawell Ballroom on Saturday, May 1 at 2pm. Additionally, the live stream link will be shared with each of the winning playwrights’ schools to share with their school community.

The DCPA’s High School Playwriting Competition is made possible by the generous support of title sponsor AT&T, The Robert and Judy Newman Family Foundation, and Transamerica.

Bathroom Love Potion
Link: https://vimeo.com/545143829
Password: lovepotion#9

One Last Present
Link: https://vimeo.com/545143156
Password: jinglebells

Bird of Paradise
Link: https://vimeo.com/545142827
Password: foxglove