Authentic voices: DCPA Education names 2018 playwriting finalists

2018 Scenesters finalists

The winning plays, taking on a wide array of topical issues, will be read at the Colorado New Play Summit

The Denver Center for the Performing Arts today announced the finalists for its fifth annual Regional High School Playwriting Workshop and Competition for Colorado high-school students:

  • Emmaleth Ryan, Grandview High School: Sleep No More, about a young woman who decides to commit suicide until she is reminded of the resilience of the human spirit. Says Ryan: “I learned more about how to grapple with life by writing a character who has fought her demons and won.” MEET EMMALETH
  • Julianna Luce and Trinell Samuel, Vista Peak Preparatory: Technical Difficulties is a comedy about a high-school theatre production that has been seized by vengeful understudies. Say the self-described techies: When the lights, sound or even just the ambience we help create draws ‘oohs’ and ‘aahs’ from the audience, it is mystical for us. It feeds the hunger of our inner artist.” MEET JULIANNA AND TRINELL
  • Noah Jackson, Girls Athletic Leadership School: Wine Colored Lip Gloss, about a teenager dealing with gender-identity problems and how to tell his parents about it. Says Jackson: “I learned how to take advice on social situations from my own characters, which actually helped me through a lot of problems I’ve faced.” MEET NOAH

2017 Student Playwriting ohn Moore.After week-long workshops and mentoring from nationally acclaimed playwrights, the winning playwrights will have their scripts read by professional actors at the 2018 Colorado New Play Summit at 8 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 24, in The Conservatory Theatre. Finalists also receive a $250 cash scholarship and complimentary pass to all Summit activities.

(Pictured: A reading of a student play at the 2017 Colorado New Play Summit. Photo by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.)

The finalists were chosen from a field of 153 submissions, after which 10 semifinalists were named. Director of Education Allison Watrous noted that the entries covered a much more substantive range of important topics this year, including sexual abuse, gender identity, suicide, homelessness, child abuse race relations and addiction.

“We are so inspired by the quality and the depth of the writing this year,” said Watrous. “These writers are exploring the fullest potential of the art form through their use of poetry and nuanced dialogue. These extraordinary playwrights are writing with distinct, authentic and brave voices. We are honored to nurture and empower these emerging voices of the American theatre.”

Finalists quote 2018 Scenesters.Starting last fall, DCPA Education faculty taught 146 playwriting workshops in 57 Colorado schools. A record 3,002 high-school students participated in those workshops, which were held in every school district in the Denver-metro area and in 20 counties around the state. The subsequent submissions judged blindly by DCPA artistic, literary and education professionals.

In addition to the Summit reading, each teacher of the finalists will receive a $250 gift certificate for books, supplies or other teaching tools for their classrooms.

After the Colorado New Play Summit, one of the three scripts will be selected for full production during DCPA Education’s 2018 summer program.

“These young playwrights are the next generation of theatre. It is our responsibility and our privilege to encourage them and give them the tools to succeed,” Watrous said. “We launched the one-act play playwriting competition in 2013 to nurture Colorado’s promising young playwrights, create new plays and inspire creativity.

“In just five years, we’ve been overwhelmed with the response: 730 submissions and more than 13,500 students served through the program, giving voice to the next generation of American theatre.”

It’s worth noting that at this time of pronounced gender disparity in the American theatre, the DCPA’s statewide playwriting competition has, by a blind judging draw, produced 70 percent female semifinalists in its first five years (39 of 56.)

Our profiles of all 2018 Scenester semifinalists:

In addition to the previously announced finalists listed above, the judges singled out two entries for honorable mention:

  • Los Amorios by Catalin Varela, Castle View High School
  • This Play is Literally Impossible to Perform by Caroline Storey, Compass Montessori High School

The coordinator of the DCPA’s  student playwriting program is 2017 True West Award winner Claudia Carson. The sponsors are Robert and Judi Newman Family Foundation with matching gifts from The Ross Foundation, June Travis and Transamerica.

John Moore was named one of the 12 most influential theater critics in the U.S. by American Theatre Magazine in 2011. He has since taken a groundbreaking position as the Denver Center’s Senior Arts Journalist.

Video bonus: The playwrights at the Colorado New Play Summit

We talked with the student playwriting finalists whose plays were read by DCPA actors at the Colorado New Play Summit. Video by David Lenk and John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter. 

More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

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