Arts and Entertainment

2016 California Young Playwrights Contest winners

I stepped into a green room covered in doodles of beloved Dr. Seuss characters on the walls. Aptly named, the “Seuss” room at the Globe Theater in San Diego, I thought it was the perfect location for a table read of my play “Supermarket of Lost.” I sat down at a long table next to…
<a href="" target="_self">Cassandra Hsiao</a>

Cassandra Hsiao

October 5, 2016

I stepped into a green room covered in doodles of beloved Dr. Seuss characters on the walls. Aptly named, the “Seuss” room at the Globe Theater in San Diego, I thought it was the perfect location for a table read of my play “Supermarket of Lost.” I sat down at a long table next to producers, directors, stage managers, costume designers, light and sound designers, and actors to discuss my one-act play that I hope matches the whimsically of Seuss–a conversation that explored the world I had built on levels I had never considered.

This is the beautiful start of words leaping off a page and characters jumping to life on a stage. I was chosen as one of the finalists to receive a full production for the California Young Playwrights Contest, out of 385 contest submissions evaluated blindly by a pool of theatre professionals.

Playwrights Project will produce its 32nd annual festival of Plays by Young Writers, sponsored by the Sheila and Jeffrey Lipinsky Family Fund, at The Sheryl and Harvey White Theatre in the Conrad Prebys Theatre Center at The Old Globe from Jan. 19 – 29. The festival will feature winning scripts from its California Young Playwrights Contest for ages 18 and under. Four scripts will receive full professional productions, and two scripts will receive staged readings in this highly regarded festival of new voices.

The Festival is divided into Program A (appropriate for ages 11+) and Program B (for ages 16+). Each program includes one staged reading and two full productions. Two acting ensembles will present the two different programs, with actors playing multiple roles.

Thank you to Executive Producer Cecelia Kouma, Artistic Director of Festival Ruff Yeager, and my director George Ye for already providing deep insights and helping shape my play even in the early stages of production. I am honored and humbled to embark on this journey along with six other magnificent playwrights.

Playwrights : Matthew Maced, Cassandra Hsiao, Katie Taylor, Eliana Dunn, Minh-Son Tran, Samantha Rafter and Absinthe McDonald.

Program A for ages 11 and up    

Full Productions                                           Playwrights
“Supermarket of Lost”                                  Cassandra Hsiao, 16, Walnut

“Hackathon”                                                   Eliana Dunn, 16, Pacifica

Staged Reading                                             Playwrights

“Turtle on a Rock”                                         Absinthe McDonald, 12, San Diego

In “Supermarket of Lost”* two teenagers and a young girl meet by chance in a mysterious warehouse where you can recover what you’ve lost in exchange for something of equal value. As their friendship develops, they discover a compelling difference between what we lose and what we choose to give away. The play was written by Cassandra Hsiao, at age 16, while attending Orange County School of the Arts. George Yè will direct and dramaturg this thought-provoking play.

*Originally produced in The Blank Theatre Young Playwrights Festival in Los Angeles.

Set in Silicon Valley, the witty satire “Hackathon” examines issues of gentrification and bias in the tech industry, as teenagers from different walks of life compete to create an app that will change the world. When the names of the finalists were revealed to the producers, they were surprised and delighted to learn that Hackathon was written by 16-year-old Eliana Salzer Dunn, who is the granddaughter of Playwrights Project’s Founder Deborah Salzer. Dunn attends City College of San Francisco; Yè will direct and Mabelle Reynoso will dramaturg.

In “Turtle on a Rock,” an unfulfilled turtle sings of his longing to find his purpose in life. Playwright Absinthe McDonald, 12, took part in a playwriting residency in Mr. Lindsey’s class at Creative Media and Performing Arts School in Clairemont led by Teaching Artist Wendy Waddell, where she composed her winning script. Erika Beth Phillips, Playwrights Project’s Program Manager of School Programs, will direct Turtle on a Rock and Deborah Salzer will serve as the dramaturg/writing mentor.

Program B for ages 16 and up

Full Productions                                             Playwrights

“The Dumping Ground”                                Matthew Maceda, 17, Rancho Peñasquitos

“Pros and Cons”                                               Katie Taylor, 18, Woodlake

Staged Reading                                               Playwrights

“A Play on Words”                                          Samantha Rafter, 14, San Diego

                     Minh-Son Tran, 13, San Diego

“The Dumping Ground” depicts the story of Mark, a high school student whose promposal is publicly rebuffed in front of his peers. As he struggles to make sense of his rejection, he learns valuable life lessons from supportive mentors. Playwright Matthew Maceda attends Westview High School in Poway, and this is Maceda’s fifth play to win the contest. Three of his plays received staged readings and “Coffee, Cream and Closure” received a full production in 2015. “The Dumping Ground” will be directed by Monique Gaffney, prominent local actor.

“Pros and Cons” is a clever farce about formerly incarcerated friends who reunite for a fresh start as they reenter society. Despite their altruistic efforts, old habits die-hard and whacky escapades ensue. In the playwright’s words, “the road to comedy is paved with good intentions.” Katie Taylor, who penned the play, lives in Woodlake where she attends College of the Sequoias. “Pros and Cons” will be directed by Phil Johnson, and Ruff Yeager will dramaturg.

“A Play on Words” by Samantha Rafter and Minh-Son Tran, introduces Patrick a piece of math homework, Patricia a pretty pencil, and Eileen an introverted eraser, as they experience an existential crises during spring break. Rafter and Tran wrote their winning script in a playwriting program at Black Mountain Middle School, which was taught by Teaching Artist Wendy Waddell in Ms. Gapusan’s Language Arts class. 

About Playwrights Project:

Playwrights Project advances literacy, creativity and communication by empowering individuals to voice their stories through playwriting programs and theatre productions.

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