Mommy, where do playwrights come from?

Let’s say you’re a young, aspiring playwright, and you feel you have something meaningful and unique to say. However, because your chosen craft requires various resources to represent your work, including a director, actors, lighting design, set, costumes, a venue — you name it — you might never have your talent nurtured, developed, or even seen. It can be quite discouraging. So, what do you do? Where do the new voices for theatre come from?

Pegasus Players — a group committed to providing quality arts experience for those who would normally be denied it, such as inner-city school students and low-income senior citizens — is doing something to develop and recognize budding talent. In fact, they’ve been doing something for over two decades. Their annual Young Playwrights Festival — now in its 24th year — helps nurture these young playwrights through mentoring, workshopping and a series of fully-realized performances of their work. I’ll be attending a performance next week, and greatly look forward to seeing the three chosen plays, selected from a record 803 submissions. From their press release:

Pegasus Players will kick off the New Year with its 24th Annual Young Playwrights Festival, a professional production of three winning one-act plays written by Chicago high school students. This year’s production will be performed at Pegasus Players, 1145 W. Wilson Avenue in the O’Rourke Center at Truman College, Chicago, January 7-31, 2010. The official Opening Night Ceremony is Monday, January 11, 2010 at 7:30 p.m.

An annual Chicago tradition and the oldest of its kind in the country, Young Playwrights Festival (YPF) is a 16-month-long cycle of workshops, performances and special programs. This year, YPF received over 800 plays written by teenagers throughout Chicago, marking a record number of submissions. YPF showcases the next generation of playwrights, encouraging the development of independent, high-level thinking and enhancing an appreciation of reading, writing and cultural diversity.

“Through YPF, Pegasus Players promotes playwriting to develop a new generation of writers and theatre-goers for the stage,” said Ilesa Duncan, Festival Director. “This program is about the written word, which is the foundation of theatre. It gives students an opportunity to have a professional experience as a playwright-an apprenticeship, if you will-to hone their ideas and their creativity. The students learn the power of theatre and how it can convey emotion, history and culture, connecting people in real and powerful ways. Every year is a unique chance to see these fresh minds find their voice and grow as young artists.”

The three winning students receive $500, a full production of their scripts, and a professional playwriting mentor to work with them during pre-production. Seven finalists will each receive $100, and all those in the final round, including winners, finalists, and ten Honorable Mentions, will receive plaques commemorating their participation in YPF. These students will all be honored at the Opening Night Ceremony. This year’s winners are Gabriella Bonamici, Kat Blackburn and Gixiang Lee, who come from three different schools across Chicago. This year’s directors are Duncan, Kimberly Senior and Edward Torres, and this year’s mentors are Andrew Hinderaker, Mia McCullough and Marisa Wegrzyn.

You can read more information here about this year’s Festival. Also, go here to purchase tickets. Support new works and artists!

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