In middle school and high school, students write analytical essays, research papers and maybe a few poems here and there. But few young students have the opportunity to not only write a play but also see it come to life on stage.
City Theatre’s annual EQT Young Playwrights Contest challenges students in grades seven to 12 in western Pennsylvania and northern West Virginia to write a one-act play that, if selected, will be produced for the stage.
When freshman Jack Horrigan, Arden Road, heard of the contest last year in eighth grade at Jefferson, he decided to take a chance and submit an original play. Jack says he always enjoyed writing in school but did not have much experience writing creatively. “I never really considered writing a play before because it’s such a different format,” he says.
Jack’s play, Family Honor, was evaluated by a committee of 50 local and national theatre professionals. This year was one of the largest submission years on record with nearly 400 entries, and when the winners were announced in June, Jack’s play was one of the three middle school finalists. It will be performed later this fall.
Jack came up with the idea for his play after watching The Godfather. His script follows a father who is the head of a business, as he and his wife, along with their son, hunt their daughter’s murderer.
“We were surprised—not in a didn’t-think-he-could-do-it kind of way, but you never know if you’re reading it through a filter of parental pride,” says Frank Horrigan, Jack’s father. “He’s always been a good writer. You can’t expect those kinds of awards to happen.”
Frank took the call from City Theatre. “Before the call was even over, I started texting my friends about it and they thought it was cool,” Jack says.
Leading up to the play’s performance, Jack will work alongside a dramaturg—a theatre professional who coordinates details of a production—on script revisions. “We actively encourage the students to participate in as many aspects of the process as they can so that they can get a full understanding of everything that’s involved in bringing their stories to life on stage,” says Kristin Link, City Theatre’s director of education and accessibility. The young playwrights are invited to attend in-progress workshop readings, auditions for the cast, design meetings, rehearsals and publicity trips.
Jack is excited to work with the dramaturg and see how his play is transformed on stage. “I have a say in things, but I’m probably not going to use it that much,” he says.
Family Honor and the other five plays will be performed in the Lester Hamburg Studio at City Theatre on the South Side October 24 through November 4. Four honorable mentions will receive a reading of their plays. Tickets are $15 for adults and $10 for students. www.citytheatrecompany.org