Playwrights young and old to show their work at New Play Festival

By Lonnie Burstein Hewitt

For the past 27 years, Playwrights Project has been encouraging talented writers under age 18 with a statewide Young Playwrights Contest, whose winners are offered staged readings or full productions of their works, performed by professional actors. The youngest winner to date was a 10-year-old; the 2011 winners range in age from 11 to 18.
This year, as part of their annual New Play Festival, they are also presenting productions of scripts by older writers, adults over age 55 who have been learning to dramatize their life experiences in a series of workshops led by Playwrights Project founder Deborah Salzer.

Winners of Playwrights Project’s 2011 California Young Playwrights Contest — Eric Pak, Matthew Maceda, Kira Nolan, Nachi Baru and Caleb Roitz — will have their plays performed at the Lyceum Theatre this month.

June Gottleib, one of four senior writers whose work will be shown in rotation with Plays by Young Writers, said the idea for her piece, “Changing Roles/My Year of Being Alone,” came from an exercise in one of the Lifestages workshops. “We had to do a ‘quick write’ on a variety of important events in our lives, and I selected the very last event I wrote down — my year of being alone after losing my spouse to dementia,” she said. “At first, I really didn’t want to write it, because it contained a lot of fresh and difficult emotions, but it kept calling out to me. I went through a number of drafts before I got to the heart of what I wanted to say.”

Among the youngest of this year’s winning young writers — and the only female — is 13-year-old Kira Nolan, who attends The Bishop’s School in La Jolla and has been writing for most of her life. “The Eccentric Flight of a Fly,” written when she was 12, will be her second appearance in the New Play Festival, where her play “Russet,” was presented last year.

“I actually swallowed a fly, and that gave me the idea of a girl with a fly inside her head, controlling her mind and making her lose control of her body,” said the playwright. “She has a pet dog, too, for comic relief.”

The 2011 winners are all from San Diego. “We didn’t plan it that way, of course, but that’s how it turned out,” said Playwrights Project Executive Director Cecilia Kouma. “So they’ve been very active in the whole pre-production process.”

Since mid-December, 16-year-old Nachi Baru, whose play, “American Idyll,” presents a futuristic world that is anything but idyllic, has been working with Deborah Salzer as his dramaturg. Caleb Rotiz, now 19, is working with dramaturg Shirley Fishman, Director of Play Development at La Jolla Playhouse.

There’s some border-crossing in the themes of the young and older playwrights.

“Caleb’s play, ‘Hallowed,’ about an old man who has decided it’s his time to die, is beautiful, poetic, and very insightful about issues of aging,” Kouma said. “And Topper Birdsall’s play, ‘Wahoo,’ is about being young. One is looking forward, one is looking back. It’s so exciting to watch these plays come together, and I’m so impressed by how thoughtful and creative all the writers are!”

Senior writers June Gottleib, John Whitmore and Savannah Sincoff will show their work in “Lifestages Reflections.” (Not pictured: Topper Birdsall)

If you go

What: Playwrights Project New Play Festival: Plays by Young Writers and Lifestages Reflections

When: April 20-29 (See schedule at
Where: Lyceum Theatre, Horton Plaza, San Diego

Tickets: $9-$20

Lyceum Box Office: (619) 544-1000

Playwrights Project: (619) 239-8222

More from Playwrights Project

Besides the Young Playwrights Contest and Lifestages, Playwrights Project offers in-school programs for students in grades 3-12; Telling Stories, a playwriting program for foster youth; and Play by Play, a special program for emerging playwrights over 18.
On the third Tuesday evening of every month at various locations, professional actors perform lively readings of selected scripts. Next performances: May 15 and June 19. See for details.

Related posts:

  1. Young local actors thrilled to be part of Old Globe’s Grinch 2011
  2. J*Company Youth Theatre to hold auditions for season 19 shows
  3. Playhouse hosts two events to promote new musical Sleeping Beauty Wakes
  4. SD REP has a winner in ‘Storyville’
  5. Junior Theatre presents first-rate, first-grade comedy in La Jolla

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Posted by Staff on Apr 10, 2012. Filed under A & E, Theater. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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