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Winners of the 31st Annual New Jersey Young Playwrights Contest

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Playwrights Theatre has announced the winners of the 31st Annual New Jersey Young Playwrights Contest. From the 470 plays submitted by young writers throughout the state, a panel of theatre professionals has selected four High School plays, three Junior High School plays and four Elementary Schools plays. In each category, selection was blind; plays were selected without knowledge of playwrights' schools, grade or background. The 31st Annual New Jersey Young Playwrights Contest Festival will be held on June 2 and 3, 2014, as part of a partnership between Playwrights Theatre and Premiere Stages at Kean University. Select plays from this festival may be reprised at Playwrights Theatre’s nationally-recognized Forum Reading Series in December 2014. This reading series brings together writers from all over the United States.

The plays will be presented at the University Center's Little Theatre at Kean University on Monday, June 2, 2014, at 7pm for the Elementary and Junior High Division winners and on Tuesday, June 3, 2014, at 7pm for the High School Division winners’ plays. The readings will feature professional actors and directors and reservations can be made by calling 973-514-1787 X21 or via email njypf@ptnj.org. Admission to the readings is free, but reservations are required, as seating is limited.

“New Jersey’s young writers had plenty to say this year and script submission to the Contest nearly doubled in number from last year. As a result it was a particularly difficult process to select the Festival plays, but I think we have put together a strong variety of plays with exciting new perspectives,” says Jim DeVivo, the Director of Education for Playwrights Theatre. “Right now, dramaturgs and directors from Playwrights Theatre are working with the playwrights to continue developing the scripts over the next few weeks. I’m very excited to see the work come together for the Festival in June!”

Two categories were added to the contest this year. In celebration of New Jersey’s 350th anniversary, Playwrights Theatre created a Revolutionary Plays category, for plays written about New Jersey’s role in the Revolutionary War. The winner in that category was Verna Chen, who attends Indian Hill School in Holmdel, NJ, and wrote Molly Bloom and Her Weird Experience in the American Revolution.The play will be performed on Monday, June 2, 2014, as part of the Elementary and Junior High School Division reading. In addition, Verna will receive a $100 Savings Bond.

The Living with Disabilities Category encouraged writers to create plays that featured characters with physical or mental disabilities. From the fourteen plays submitted, Millburn High School student, Hazel Solender’s play Midnight was selected to represent this category. A reading of her play will occur before the High School Division festival on June 3, 2014. All plays submitted to this category were also submitted to the VSA Playwright Discovery Competition at The John F. Kennedy Center for Performing Arts in Washington, DC.

Playwrights Theatre has also partnered with RoxPac in Roxbury, NJ, where selected plays will be part of a summer festival of student work performed by students at RoxPac. Winning plays will be announced shortly.

In the High School Division (grades 10-12), the winners are:
Hurricane Season by Alexa Derman, Westfield High School
Mechanical Advancement by Emily Donegan, Bergen County Academies, Hackensack
Ink Never Dulls by Talia Green, Bergen County Academies, Hackensack
Enter Banquo’s Ghost by Miranda Hoyt-Disick, Tenafly

The aforementioned winners received a New Jersey Governor’s Award in Arts Education, which is co-sponsored by New Jersey Arts Education Partnership and the New Jersey Department of Education, at the Governor’s Awards Ceremony on May 1, 2014, at the War Memorial in Trenton. The Governor’s Award is the highest honor in arts education in New Jersey.

“The plays are developed with professional dramaturges and rehearsed with professional actors and directors,” said John Pietrowski Artistic Director of Playwrights Theatre. “The readings provide a rare and entertaining glimpse into the minds of young writers working in the state. It’s a great night of theatre, and we highly recommend it to a public audience.”

In the Junior High School Division (grades 7-9), the winners are:
My Life, My Family, Not My Wallet by Christopher Frick, Dwight D. Eisenhower Middle School, Wyckoff
Accounting for Change by Elizabeth Hendy, Union County Academy for Performing Arts, Scotch Plains
An Underdog Story by Morgan McCauley, Dwight D. Eisenhower Middle School, Wyckoff

"Premiere Stages is thrilled to continue our partnership with Playwrights Theatre of New Jersey and the NJ Young Playwrights Festival," said Producing Associate, Clare Drobot. "Premiere Stages supports playwrights of all ages and we are delighted to help cultivate the next generation of artists and theater lovers."

In the Elementary School Division (grades 4-6), the winners are:
So Let’s Get Cooking by Lily Bauer, Chatham Middle School
Zoe Verrazano’s Big Adventure by Katie Dore, Central Avenue Elementary School, Madison
A Good Story, A Beautiful Life by Ashley Jiang, Indian Hill School, Holmdel
I Beat the Bully by Amanda Kefalas, Carl H. Kumpf Middle School, Clark

This is the 31st year celebration of the New Jersey Young Playwrights Festival. Playwrights Theatre is reaching out to former winners to find out where their lives have taken them. Many have gone on to pursue careers as published prose and poetry writers as well as playwrights and journalists. Others have become have become lawyers, professors, and comic book illustrators.

About the High School Playwrights:

Alexa Derman is currently a senior at Westfield High School. She has received national recognition for her writing as a 2013 YoungArts finalist and merit award recipient, as well as a four-time national gold medalist at the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards in dramatic script, personal essay, flash fiction, and short story. Additional recognition has been received from the International Thespian Society (playwriting), Princeton University (playwriting), Rider University (creative nonfiction), Johns Hopkins University (creative nonfiction), Sierra Nevada College (fiction), and the Blank Theatre (playwriting). Her play “Hurricane Season” first premiered as a part of Contagious Drama Workshop’s “SOS: Stories of Sandy” showcase.

In addition to writing, Alexa also serves both as the Co-EIC of her high school literary magazine and as the Managing Editor of The Adroit Journal, an international publication staffed by 50+ high school and undergraduate students across the globe. She is also the hair and makeup artist for her school’s award-winning theatre department, and received a Rising Star Award for Outstanding Achievement in Hair & Makeup in 2012 (nom. 2013). Finally, Alexa is a proud officer of the New Jersey YMCA Youth and Government program, and member of National Honor Society and International Thespian Society.

Alexa has been lucky enough to study writing at the University of Iowa’s Young Writers Studio, Brown University, and Bard College at Simon’s Rock, as well as a member of Young Playwright’s Inc.’s yearlong Advanced Playwriting Workshop in New York. When she isn’t running around painting faces or writing stories, Alexa spends a lot of time enthusing about Hamlet and daydreaming about college.

Emily Donegan,16, is a junior in the theatre concentration at Bergen County Academies where she studies acting, dance and playwriting among other theatre classes. While she enjoys all aspects of theatre, those in the backstage realm are particularly dear to her and she has worked extensively behind the scenes and as a stage manager. Recent credits include Antigone, Bat Boy: the Musical, and Macbeth. Performance credits include The King and I (Royal Dancer, Wife) and You Can't Take It With You (De Pinna). In her free time Emily enjoys reading and cooking.

Miranda Hoyt-Disickis a junior at Riverdale Country School. As well as plays, she loves writing poetry, short stories, and films. She would like to pursue a career as a screenwriter, director, and playwright. Enter Banquo’s Ghost, is her first play, and she directed it for the Riverdale Country School Play Festival last year. Other recognitions she has received at Riverdale include first place in the Nonfiction Competition, The May Sarton Award (given for the best piece of creative writing), and nominations in the Riverdale Film Festival for best design, best director, and best picture. In addition, she has won honorable mention in the Scholastic Awards as well as two gold keys, and will be published this spring in Poetic Power journal.

Miranda also loves theater and performing. She has played Penny in Hairspray, Judy Turner in A Chorus Line,and Xanthias in The Frogs. She is the resident gender and culture columnist of The Riverdale Review, and has done two independent studies, concerning respectively the nexus between fantasy and coming of age novels, and the correlation between mindfulness and transcendentalism. She enjoys discussing portrayals of race and gender in literature, television, and film. Miranda plays the guitar and the ukulele. Another of her favorite activities is writing lyrics concerning W.E.B. Dubois’s double-consciousness theory to the tunes of popular songs by The Ramones, and from the latest Disney movie, Frozen.

Talia Green is a junior at the Bergen County Academies (BCA) studying theatre in the Academy for Visual and Performing Arts. Talia's passion for the arts shone boldly since a young age, receiving regional and national recognition for her vocal performances as well as her written work. In 2011, her poem "Encounter With the Prophet"received the first place title in the Mahatma Gandhi Peace Poetry Contest at Princeton University, reflecting both her passion for creative writing as well as her activism in spreading peace, acceptance, and equality. Additionally, in 2014, her poem "Shelved", was honored and read at a special Holocaust Remembrance Ceremony in Rishon Lezion, Israel, which featured dignitaries from the City Hall, the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the UN, the German Embassy, and more. All of Talia's written work is featured on her blog: www.InTaliasWords.com.

Along with creative literature, music has always played an essential role in Talia's life. She received numerous vocal awards at prestigious regional and national competitions, one of them being the "Access Broadway" National Competition in 2012, where she received the 1st Place Award, as well as the Best Vocalist Award. Additionally, in September of 2013, Talia performed with the former lead singer of "Kool and the Gang", JT Taylor, at a Benefit Concert to raise money for the Children’s Hospital in Hackensack, NJ. She plans to perform in another benefit concert with him at the end of 2014, at Lincoln Center in New York.

As a lover of theatre, Talia Green performed in numerous productions over her last three years at the Bergen Academies. In 2014, Talia was cast as Reverend Billy Hightower in Keythe Farley and Brian Flemming's musical Bat Boy. Talia is extremely grateful for this opportunity to explore, through her play, a difficult reality that is rarely touched upon.

For more information about Playwrights Theatre, visit www.ptnj.org or call (973) 514-1787.

For more information about Premiere Stages, visit www.kean.edu/premierestages or call 908-737-4092. (7469).

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