He’s one of three winning playwrights whose scripts will be presented at the Colorado New Play Summit
Today on the DCPA NewsCenter, we begin our daily spotlight of the three winning Colorado student playwrights for DCPA Education’s annual AT&T High School Playwriting Competition, whose plays will be read on Saturday, February 22, at the 2020 Colorado New Play Summit. (Details below.) We call them “The Scenesters.”
Brandon Guo, Peak to Peak Charter School
- Class: Senior
- Teacher: Kristie Letter
- Play title: God’s Not Dead, He’s Just an Admissions Officer
- Who is your favorite writer: Karl Marx
- What was your inspiration for writing your play? When I added the last of 23 colleges to my expansive Excel spreadsheet, I realized the cruelty of forcing high-school students to grovel at the feet of billion-dollar-institutions to paint a better image of themselves. Then I connected that to religion, and a play was born.
- What happens in your play: David, a 16-year-old boy, is killed in a school shooting. From there, he is sent to the gates of Heaven. However, not only does David not want to go to Heaven, but he also discovers that God is actually a university-style admissions officer. Will God be able to convince David to stay in Heaven – and is it worth it?
- What did you want to say? My play says whatever the audience member interprets it to say. In a play that covers sensitive topics including religion, gun rights, college admissions and the Iran-Contra scandal, the audience can choose which elements to connect together. My job is to point out absurdities, and the audience’s job is to interpret them.
- What does it mean for your play to be selected for a reading at the Summit? Being able to see my 4 a.m. piece of writing be performed by live actors will be a once-in-a lifetime experience, and I am truly grateful to the DCPA. And, oh yeah: The $250 in prize money will also help me pay for approximately 0.67 percent of a single semester of college!
- What did you learn from writing this play? I learned that the art of playwriting is one of unbelievable mental exhaustion. As I write, I sculpt a view of the broad stage, the delicate intricacies of the set and the exact positions of the actors in my mind. I learned that playwriting is an art of mental exploration, in which the winding turns of the mind pour onto a Google doc in the form of stage directions, emotional cues and dialogue lines. I learned to brainstorm, plan and execute my brilliantly chaotic idea. (And as a side note, I learned that play formatting is quite pesky.)
- Killer dialogue:
GOD: “You are a Christian, and so was your grandmother. In fact, almost 99 percent of our accepted people are legacy admits.”
- What’s one unexpected word that appears in your script? Dahmer.
About the AT&T High School Playwriting Competition:
- What: A one-act playwriting competition designed for area high schools. Local playwrights and DCPA Education faculty taught 165 playwriting workshops in 21 counties statewide. A total of 3,152 high-school students participated in those workshops. The objective was to introduce students to the craft of playwriting, and encourage them to submit their own plays for the competition. In seven years, the writing program now has engaged more than 20,000 Colorado students.
- Why: The goal of the program is to nurture Colorado’s young playwrights; develop theatre artists and audiences; develop new plays; and advance literacy, creativity, writing and communication through playwriting.
- How: A total of 154 submissions were judged blindly by DCPA artistic, literary and education professionals. Ten finalists were initially selected, from which three winners were chosen. After a week of in-house workshopping at the Denver Center with trained actors, and mentorship from both DCPA Teaching Artists and a professional playwright, the three winning plays will have public readings at 9:30 a.m. and 8 p.m. on Saturday, February 22, in The Randy Weeks Conservatory Theatre. Each winner also will receive a cash scholarship of $250 and complimentary passes to the Colorado New Play Summit. The three winning scripts each will have additional readings at their playwrights’ own schools in the coming weeks. In addition, each teacher of the three winners will receive a $250 gift certificate for books, supplies or other teaching tools for their classrooms.
The 2019-20 AT&T High School Playwriting Competition is sponsored by AT&T, Robert and Judi Newman Family Foundation with matching gifts from The Ross Foundation, June Travis and Transamerica.
See the student readings at the Colorado New Play Summit
- Public readings at 9:30 a.m. and 8 p.m. on Saturday, February 22
- Randy Weeks Conservatory Theatre in the Newman Center for Theatre Education at 1101 13th St., at the corner of 13th and Arapahoe streets
- The event is free but reservations are encouraged by clicking here
Video bonus: A look back at the 2018-19 Scenesters
In the video above, DCPA Senior Arts Journalist John Moore speaks with Executive Director of Education Allison Watrous and the student playwrights whose works were selected to be read at the 2019 Colorado New Play Summit. Video by David Lenk for the DCPA NewsCenter.