By Ernie McCray
The Playwrights Project has been producing plays written by dramatists, under age 19, for 30 years.
It all begins with the California Young Playwrights Contest, a statewide competition.
This year there were 581 entrants, way more than usual, and the stories of eight extremely talented writers made it to the stage – at the Sheryl and Harvey White Theatre at the Old Globe, no less.
Four of the plays earned full production and four are performed as staged readings – and I mean “staged,” because the Playwrights Project has no bounds when it comes to creative performances.
I went to opening night, this past Saturday, where I saw: “Coffee, Cream, & Closure” by Matthew Maceda, age 15, of Torrey Highlands; “Crown Prince Crazy” by Alberto Cordova, age 18, of Escondido; “Light” by Ke’Ona, age 17, of Escondido; “From Another House” by Eliana Pipes, age 17, of Altadena.
Oh, it might sound cliche but, never-the-less, I was blown away by these young people’s artistry. Everything I saw literally moved me to my core. And made me laugh, at times, like crazy.
Young people, we too often forget, I think, have so much to say. “Coffee, Cream, & Closure” delved into a common occurrence in so many of our lives, where a loved one is so consumed by their work that they can’t seem to find time for their family. Felicia is such a person but she meets a medium in a coffee shop and a miracle is about to be born. There’s a very small stage action that takes place that will have you almost falling out of your seat laughing. It has to be seen.
“Crown Prince Crazy” touches on the heartbreak and fears that overcome illegal immigrants in our country. A boy has to decide, in a very short time, whether it’s going to be Mexico or the USA. Will he go with family or strike out alone? The story is told ever so cleverly, touching on how sometimes one has to just “let go.” Laughs galore.
“Light,” like the other plays, was an absolute delight, a drama about a teenage black girl who has to deal with being dark skinned in a light skinned family. She has to shine a light on the truth to find her self-worth. This story is life in the raw. Without giving anything away, there’s a character who will make your skin crawl with his understated meanness. I loved this drama as I’ve seen in real life much of what happened on stage. Many of us have.
“From Another House” was, well, let me first say this. Every play was written with precise expertise but the seventeen year old who wrote this piece has a rare talent for humor. She took a weighty topic and made it hilarious in places without taking a single thing away from the gravity of the situation, a young woman meeting her father and his family for the first time, sparking a glaring discovery. Wait until you see what it is.
The rest of the run will be divided into PROGRAM A and PROGRAM B so all the plays can be seen.
PROGRAM A will be staged on January 27, 28, 30, at 10am so schools can attend (it’s fun seeing how young people react to situations in which many of them can relate) – and January 31, 7:30 pm, and February 1, at 2pm.
PROGRAM B takes place on January 29, at 10am, January 30, at 7:30 pm and January 31 at 2pm.
PROGRAM A will feature “Coffee, Cream, & Closure” and “Crown Prince Crazy” and the following staged readings: “One Magical Day” by Tricia Mendoza, age 14; “Best Friend Mistakes” by Donya Sharifi, age 12.
PROGRAM B will show “Light” and “From Another House” and “She Remembers,” a staged reading by Jerusha Israel, age 13, and another staged reading, “With Your Own Ideas,” by Sol Manuel Garza, age 14.
These premieres of winning scripts from the 2014 California Young Playwrights Contest will be well worth your time. They are plays for our times, from the brilliant young minds of our youth.
You must see these works of brilliant art. You will thank me. Guaranteed.