The Theater Project is once again reaching out to creative young people in its 20th annual Young Playwrights Competition. Winners receive cash prizes and see their work performed by professional actors at the Zoom awards ceremony in the spring. Interested students and teachers can access entry details and a podcast with one of last year’s winners on the website. The submission deadline to enter the 2022 competition is January 22.
“Kids need us to listen,” says artistic director Mark Spina. “Every year one of our winners tells us, ‘I would never have tried to do this if I hadn't heard about the competition.’ By providing this forum, we hope to inspire more young people to write and exercise and develop the verbal abilities, critical thinking skills and creativity that they need to succeed in any field.”
Several past winners of the Playwrights Competition have gone on to pursue degrees in theater and playwriting, and they often return to The Theater Project’s event to present prizes and share their journeys with the newest honorees. Prior to the ceremony, the judges, who are members of The Theater Project’s Adult Playwrights Workshop, also offer half-hour tutorials to any interested contest entrant.
The 2021 Young Playwrights honorees: Brennan Columbia-Walsh, Montclair Kimberley Academy in Montclair and Alejandro Espinal, Academy for Performing Arts in Scotch Plains, shared first prize. Ryan Rosenthal, Cranford High School, and Julian Martin, Scotch Plains-Fanwood, captured second and third, respectively.
Ava Chickering (Montclair Kimberley Academy), Christiana Gabor (Holmdel High School), Lucille O'Donnell (Thomas Jefferson Arts Academy), Emily Hammond (The Lawrenceville School), Maddie Pritchet (OCVTS Performing Arts Academy), Tierney Maurer (Holmdel High School), and Veronica Vogelman (Princeton Day School) won honorable mentions.
The Theater Project works with its “alumni” winners to find other venues for their work, by sponsoring them in other competitions such as the Samuel French Festival in New York City.
“We want to make sure that kids know their creative efforts are valued by showcasing them for the community,” says program coordinator Kevin Carver. “Arts education sometimes gets short-changed as schools struggle to meet so many demands. But when kids lose out on arts experiences, they miss opportunities to develop critical thinking skills that are needed now more than ever.”
The winning playwrights receive cash prizes; the honorable mentions are awarded gift certificates. Entering its 28th year, The Theater Project is an award-winning professional company and incubator for rising talent.