Young Playwrights Festival finds homegrown talent
CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. — For the second year, Chambersburg Community Theatre, Inc. (CCT) and The Capitol Theatre Center in downtown Chambersburg are partnering to produce Franklin County’s Young Playwrights Festival, and who knows maybe find the next William Shakespeare.
This festival is a unique opportunity for budding playwrights to share their talents with the local community, said Kelly Kozlowski, CCT managing director.
“We want people to come experience and celebrate the creativity and work of students from throughout the greater Franklin County area who have written plays. This is our opportunity to celebrate the creativity and the talent of our local students,” she said.
The festival will be held on Sunday, April 28, at 1:45 p.m. and 6 p.m. at The Capitol Theatre Center. Tickets are $13 for adults, and 60 years-old and older; $8 for students with a valid student identification.
The festival is the culmination of a competitive writing process, for students in kindergarten through 12th grade, that began in September and ended in the middle of December.
Kozlowski received 38 submissions this year. Each play has a 10-minute time limit.
A panel of local professionals reviewed the plays and scored them on a number of factors including creativity and producibility.
The top 10 scoring plays are produced and performed at the festival, Kozlowski said.
The plays, in the festival, run the gamut from comedy to drama and everything in between, she said.
Not only do the writers get to see their work go from page to stage, but also there are five cash prizes awarded at the festival for top three plays, grand prize and audience choice.
“The best way to get a child to fall in love with theater is to have them experience it and be a part of it,” said Kozlowski who will be directing three of the 10 plays.
At Tuesday night’s rehearsal of her play, “Mother,” young playwright Gvantsa Darsania sat quietly on the sidelines watching her words come to life.
Gvantsa, 17, a foreign exchange student from the Republic of Georgia is attending Chambersburg Area Senior High School.
The playwrights are involved in the entire production process from finding actors to providing feedback during rehearsals, Kozlowski explained.
“I thought it would be nice and interesting for me as an exchange student to have this kind of experience,” Gvantsa said.
Her play focuses on the complicated relationship between a mother and daughter and the inner dialogue between the mother’s younger self and adult self.
“When I see them (actors) speaking the words that I wrote, and they are doing what I wrote on the paper, it feels strange and exciting – it’s amazing,” Gvantsa said.
Debra Kennedy, Chambersburg, plays the mother in Darsania’s play and acts in three other plays.
“Last year I helped back stage, and I was just very impressed with the stories that the kids come up with,” Kennedy said.
Kennedy hopes that the local community will attend the festival.
“It’s about supporting the kids and seeing what they can do. A lot of times you only hear the negative side of what kids are doing or the trouble they get into, and this is an opportunity to see their creativity,” she said.
Christian Witmer, third-place winner for his play “Deficiency,” is a 12th grade student at Capital Area School for the Arts Charter School in Harrisburg.
“There are not a lot of opportunities for young writers in general, let alone playwrights, and anywhere that you can find an audience is an opportunity you should take,” Christian said.
He described his play “Deficiency” as an experimental play about a woman who joins a self-help cult.
“I’m just so excited to see it done,” he said.
JB Phillips, Middletown, Md., will be front and center cheering on his son Davis when his play, “The Play that Went Wrong,” comes to life.
“We are so proud and happy for him. When he was writing it, he read half of it to me, and I was laughing so much,” said Phillips proudly.
Davis, 11, who loves bloopers, said his play takes place in a castle with a king, queen, and a clumsy maid and butler.
“I am very excited that my play, in my words, is being publicly produced on the stage. It’s so exciting,” Davis said.
Top photo: Olivia Woolf and Debra Kennedy, both of Chambersburg, Pa., rehearse a scene from “Mother,” to be performed at the Franklin County Young Playwrights Festival on Sunday, April 28 at The Capitol Theatre Center in Chambersburg. (Photo by Roxann Miller)