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Young playwrights turn super nerdy at ACT

Eight students had their work selected for the 2014 YPP presentation.
Eight featured playwrights at ACT, photo by Ian Johnston

Dragons, role-playing elves, and haunted houses. A group of young playwrights have cooked up several magical looks at life in the 21st century to be presented tonight and tomorrow at ACT Theatre.

For the twelfth outing of the ACT Theatre’s Young Playwrights Program (YPP), professional playwrights taught a ten-week intensive course at local schools, encouraging the next generation to create stories that speak to them. Eight plays, most of them centered on a fantastical or science fiction theme, were selected for presentation this weekend.

That so many young writers, ages 12 to 18, decided to add the fantastic to their works doesn’t surprise Chloe Mason, a seventeen-year-old participant in this year’s festival.

“Some of the most successful young adult literature, it’s all been fantasy,” pointed out Mason. “It’s about creating new worlds and new lives. Having a grown up with fantasy like Harry Potter, I think we see fantasy as the type of stories that we care about.”

Mason took her own interests, including long running participation in an online role-playing game, to create Cubicles and Cancer. In her play, elves and hobbits try playing at living a “real life” in today’s world.

For the Seattle Academy student, participation in the festival let her try out a form of writing that she always wanted to do. “I’ve always considered myself writer and I’ve done theater since I was six or eight,” Mason said. “I really wanted to know it takes to write play.”

The experience at her school left her with a new appreciation for professionals in theater. “I think it is a lot better to hear professional actors reading the words,” she said. “I sat there in rehearsals, laughing and smiling, and nearly forgetting that I’d written the words.”

As for theaters and playwrights looking to attract her generation, Mason suggests that doing more “super nerdy” projects couldn’t hurt. After all, trolls, elves, and mad scientists can address the problems that worry all of us, as her work and those of her fellow playwrights address in performances tonight and tomorrow at ACT’s downtown Seattle theater.

While she enjoyed her outing as a playwright, Mason has her own sensible course charted for the future. She’s starting Seattle University in the fall and planning to major in business marketing.

Still, the encouragement from participants in YPP, “let me know that writing doesn’t have end here,” she said. “I could write if I want to.”

Young Playwrights Festival 2014
ACT Theatre, 700 Union Street

Tonight at 7:30pm and March 8 at 1:00pm

The Play of Ketchup by Antonia Sunderland
A young elf's parents send her to a counselor to deal with her fascination with the human world and her traumatic experiences within it.

Open Casket by Duncan Star Boszko
A major trauma propels Susan into the afterlife, where she is trapped in a state of limbo. With only herself to talk to, she must somehow find understanding.

Kitty Noire by Brett Jenkins
Detective Jack Carson's beloved lynx has been catnapped! He'll need to outwit plotting henchmen, a femme fatale, and the evil villain in order to get his kitty back safely, in this hilarious send-up of hard-boiled crime thrillers.

Quell by Paulina Glass
A 19-year-old biology prodigy creates a drug to produce "synthetic empathy." When the human lab trials begin, she is forced to confront the drug's real impact and her own ethical concerns.

March 8 at 4:00pm

The Amelia by Conrad Gregg
A coming-of-age story set in England during World War II. A young boy wants to join his father and fight for his country, against the advice of his family and an injured soldier.

A Dragon's Tale by Makenzie White
The library is almost open and the characters of one book are frantically rushing to get ready for readers. When St. George disappears, the dragon has to step up to the plate, and might just change the storyline forever.

T'was the Nightmare Before Halloween by Chloe D'Hers
Two children enter a haunted house for an evening of fun, but are instead pitted against riddles, challenges, and an evil wizard in order to save Halloween.

Cubicles and Cancer: An RPG by Chloe Mason
An elf, a hobbit, a dwarf, and an orc play a tabletop role-playing game set in the strange domain of "North America." Will they be able to complete their quest, or does this world have too many fundamental flaws?

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Tickets range $5 to $10 for each 80-minute program and are available through ACT website.