Photos, Video: Student playwriting culminates with an 'Almighty Sword'

Before entering the DCPA’s statewide student playwriting competition last fall, Arapahoe High School student Jack Hansen says, “I didn’t really know what was going on.

“Now I have a good idea what I want to do with my life, really. I would do this for the rest of my life if I could.”

The DCPA’s second year-long Regional High School Playwriting Workshop and Competition will culminate on Friday, June 26, with two fully staged performances of Hansen’s The Tale of the Almighty Sword in the Denver Center’s Conservatory Theatre.

Student playwriting finalists Catherine Novotny, Kaytlin Camp and Jack Hansen. Photo by John Moore. Last fall, DCPA Education staff conducted classroom workshops for nearly 3,000 students. That resulted in 158 one-act play submissions from young writers all over the state – up more than double from the year before. A team of adjudicators named 10 semifinalists. Of those, three were selected to have their plays workshopped by the DCPA Education staff and read by professional actors at the 2015 Colorado New Play Summit in February:

  • Kaytlin Camp of Gunnison High School (Lark’s Mechanics, third from right in photo)
  • Jack Hansen of Arapahoe High School (The Tale of the Almighty Sword, center in photo)
  • Catherine Novotny of Grandview High School (Election, left in photo)

Submissions were judged blindly by DCPA artistic, literary and educational professionals. The three finalists each receive a cash scholarship of $250. In addition, each teacher of the three finalists receives a $250 gift certificate for books, supplies or other teaching tools for their classrooms.

Hansen’s play was then selected for full production by the DCPA Education department. The staging will be directed by acclaimed playwright Steven Cole Hughes and has been cast with teen actors from the DCPA’s summer education classes.

“Frankly this year, all three plays would have been an amazing, perfect fit (for the full production),” said DCPA Education Director Allison Watrous.

Hughes served as a personal writing mentor to each of the three finalists, and he says the upcoming full production of The Tale of the Almighty Sword will serve to help Hansen develop, expand and hone his manuscript even more.  

Each finalist was further mentored during the Colorado New Play Summit in February by a commissioned playwright with the Denver Center Theatre Company: José Cruz González (September Shoes), Eric Schmiedl (Benediction) and rising playwright Mat Smart, who was assigned to Hansen.

Finalist Kaytlin Camp, who was assigned to González, said, “He just really helped my talk through the bigger picture of the play. He told me how to set it up better at the beginning and how to better develop the characters.” 

By earning the additional full production, Watrous said, “Jack Hansen will have the opportunity to continue to work with Steven Cole Hughes when they go into rehearsal. Like with any other new play, the playwright and the director are both right there in the room. Jack may say, ‘I just made a discovery. Let’s add a scene,’ or, ‘I think I can make the story stronger.’

“Hopefully what we are doing is helping them to find their authentic voice.” 

Participating in the playwriting program can help students in a variety of other ways.  Being validated in the writing of her steam-punk play Larks Mechanics, Camp said, has changed her thinking about her future.

“I have confidence issues,” she offered, “so just knowing that some people enjoy my play. …  It’s really nice, and it just makes me want to write more. ”

Watrous said that’s exactly why playwriting is a huge priority for DCPA Education.

“The more that we can encourage young playwrights – that’s great for theatre as a whole,” Watrous said, “because young people are the next generation of writers of the plays that we are going to see next.

“Maybe Jack Hansen won’t become a playwright. But going through the exercise of completing a play makes these students stronger readers, stronger writers and stronger communicators. And those are amazing, portable skills that can be applied to any career path.”

Photos by John Moore

The Tale of the Almighty Sword: Performance information:
1:30 and 7 p.m., Friday, June 26
Conservatory Theatre in the Robert and Judi Newman Center for Theatre Education 1101 13th St.
This performance is free, but an RSVP is requested by clicking here

Update: Watch video highlights from the Almighty Sword performances:

Cast list:
Written by Jack Hansen
Avery Dell: The Old Knight
Nik Velimirovic: Sir Nicholas
Zoe Fonck: Rubert
Michelle Piccone: Kaj/Merchant’s Wife
Nicholas Chavez: Christopher/Jaquis
Matthew Parone: Merchant
Maddie Beatty: Thief
Rachel Sanderson: Narrator
Sean Coughlin: The Almighty Voice
Steven Cole Hughes: Director

Some previous NewsCenter coverage of the Playwriting Competition:

Three student plays chosen for Colorado New Play Summit readings
Denver Center launches statewide high-school playwriting initiative

Meet our 10 Talented Semifinalists:

  • Divide by Kiana Trippler, ThunderRidge High School
  • Election by Catherine Novotny, Grandview High School
  • Lark’s Mechanics by Kaytlin Camp, Gunnison High School
  • Life According to Mauve by Keely Kritz, Denver School of the Arts
  • Open Mic by Joshua Contreras, Gunnison High School
  • Paper Clips by Christina Arias, Kunsmiller Creative Arts Academy
  • The Suburbs by Kendra Knapp, Valor Christian High School
  • The Tale of the Almighty Sword by Jack Hansen, Arapahoe High School
  • The Window on the Fourth Wall by Ryan McCormick, Fort Collins High School
  • Unspoken by Nathan Mast, Thomas B. Doherty High School
  • The DCPA’s Regional High School Playwriting Competition is sponsored by the Newman Family Foundation with matching gifts from FirstBank, MarkWest Energy Partners, The Ross Foundation, Stonebridge Companies and June Travis.

    Jack Hansen. Photo by John Moore. Jack Hansen. Photo by John Moore.

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