Little Boxes: Student playwright pens drama premiering at La Jolla High School

Dan (Tanner Perry) talks to Sarah (Celie Mitchard) when she brings out the sock puppet she uses to communicate. Andrea (Hannah Orr) and Julie (Hannelore Manriquez) watch. Photos by Ashley Mackin
Dan (Tanner Perry) talks to Sarah (Celie Mitchard) when she brings out the sock puppet she uses to communicate. Andrea (Hannah Orr) and Julie (Hannelore Manriquez) watch. Photos by Ashley Mackin

By Ashley Mackin

“Little Boxes,” an original drama by La Jolla High School junior Noah Wilson, will debut at 3 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 19, with 7 p.m. shows Feb. 20-22 at the school’s Parker auditorium, 750 Nautilus St.

The young playwright, son of John Wilson and Sue Makkoo, said the show is about “temporary moments of insanity and how we can sometimes realize they are actually temporary moments of clarity.”

Set at a wake, the story reveals what different characters discover about themselves, their friends and family, in the face of troublesome circumstances.

Director and drama department chair, Ann Boutelle, said despite Wilson’s age (16), the play is mature; both funny and dramatic, and well-developed.

“I, and every other adult at a read-through in December, do not qualify this as a teenage play or a teenager-written play,” she said. “It really is quite sophisticated and Noah’s capturing of adult voices is amazing. He understands adult behavior, adult conflict and the way people talk to each other (including a couple of F-bombs used in anger). This is not an immature effort at all. Noah has created real lives with this.”

Some of the characters include a grieving, alcoholic widow and a woman so insecure she must use sock puppets to communicate. “It’s been so cool to watch my students portray these well-thought-out adult characters,” boutelle added.

The characters were fleshed out during collaborations between Wilson, Boutelle and the entire drama club. Once he completed his first draft of the script, Wilson took it to the club for editing and review (although Boutelle said because the script was so “beautifully written,” there wasn’t much editing to be had).

Of the process, Wilson said, “I was so enthralled and so interested in what people had to say ... for example, if something wouldn’t be working, others would offer their ideas to make a scene smoother. It was a huge help, I learned a lot from everyone. The actors took the script into their hands and made the characters their own.

“I’m so proud to work with the people involved and feel so indebted to Ms. Boutelle for (directing and producing) this. It has been such an amazing experience for me.”

The experience as a whole started when Wilson was 8 years old and living in a suburb of Aurora, Co. before moving to La Jolla. “It was wildly dysfunctional and the idea of, ‘Are we really happy with the lives we have?’ stayed with me. I was inspired by my hometown and watching my parents and my friends’ parents, and the dynamics between those relationships,” he explained.

In July 2013, he began putting a story on paper, and it took him three months to complete. However, he spent two additional months editing before he showed his story to the La Jolla High School drama department. Though the production is nearing its debut, Wilson said one takeaway from the experience is that the editing never ends.

“You are always writing and making your story better. you are never done with it,” he said. “Some days you’ll be writing a lot and on a roll and other days you’ll sit at the computer and cannot think of anything. and that’s OK ... because we all have bad writing days.”

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