Eastside Catholic students show off playwright chops
December 23, 2013
For the past two years, Eastside Catholic School has used an outside-the-box approach to spark creativity in prospective writers.
This fall, the Sammamish private school brought back the Young Playwrights Program in which a resident artist at Seattle’s ACT Theatre visited twice a week for 10 weeks to offer the basics of writing for the stage.
The program paid off as 11 Eastside students – five from Sammamish – were honored during a celebration Dec. 9. The Sammamish students recognized were seventh-graders Adam Gregg, Conrad Gregg, Lizzie Iwicki, Max Stewart Steele and Grace Tacchetti.
Conrad Gregg earned a huge distinction as his play, “The Amelia,” was one of eight works selected from about 400 submissions to be performed in March at ACT Theatre’s Young Playwrights Festival. The other four students earned honorable-mention status for the festival.
Conrad Gregg said he was surprised to achieve such immediate success. His play will come to life through professional acting, directing and stage management.
“The Amelia,” is inspired by Gregg’s interest in war history, and follows the story of a boy whose dad is called into battle. The play will be performed twice during the March festival, and Gregg will be in the theatre during rehearsals to lend a hand.
“I’ll have to come in a couple days and work with my play, do revisions, and kind of see what’s going to happen, see how they’re going to set it up,” he said.
During YPP sessions at Eastside Catholic, students were immersed in different aspects of writing, said Arlene Naganawa, who teaches middle-school humanities, language arts and social studies.
Students are taught various pieces of being a playwright, from story structure and characterization to dialogue, conflict and resolution.
“Each play is about 10 pages long – some are a little bit longer – and they can choose whatever subject,” Naganawa explained. “So there really was a big range. My class had a lot of social studies plays, a lot of history. Some classes, there are a lot more comedies, parodies of fairy tales.”
Adam Gregg wrote a comparatively serious play called “The Choice.”
“It’s about a boy who works at the White House, and he’s offered a lot of money to betray his country,” he said. “And it’s about him deciding if he should do it or not.”
Tacchetti said students were hooked into YPP through “a bunch of fun games,” and she quickly became adept at turning individual scenes into an entire play.
Her play, “The Grotto,” was something she envisioned while doing community service at Mary, Queen of Peace Catholic Church in Sammamish. The church has its own grotto – a small cave used for prayer – and Tacchetti thought it would make an intriguing story setting.
Her story has a science-fiction element to it.
“It’s about these girls who find this grotto, and it sends them into another dimension,” Tacchetti said. “One of them gets trapped in there, and the other two try to figure out how to get her back.”
Iwicki’s work, “Bibbity-Boppity-Moo,” also stretches the imagination. A friend who loves cows inspired the play.
“It’s about a cow who wants to become a human, because they think being a cow is boring,” she said. “… They turn into a human, and eventually they figure out they don’t like being a human, that it’s too much work. So then they want to change back into a cow, but they have to go on this long journey to change back.”
Iwicki’s play wasn’t chosen for the March festival, but it was performed during the theater’s Dec. 9 event.
“I really liked the process, so I think I might do it more now,” she said. “When I get ideas, I can transfer the idea into what it could be for a play.”
Naganawa said several Eastside Catholic students earned recognition from ACT Theatre last year, too, and she credits Sister Mary Tracy, the school’s president, for supporting arts curriculum.
“We have a lot of talent at this school, and they worked really hard,” Naganawa said. “It was a hard number of hours to put into their plays.”