Young Playwrights Festival 2018
Created, directed, and performed by Walden Theatre Conservatory students
Festival produced by Melinda Crecelius & Keith McGill
Review by Keith Waits
Entire contents copyright © 2018 Keith Waits. All rights reserved.
The annual Young Playwrights Festival gives us a glimpse into what is on the minds of teenagers. A certain preoccupation with their immediate life experience is to be expected; school, families, and the vestiges of childhood are here on display, but these contexts on occasion provide an opportunity for some uncomfortable insights.
Connor Madison’s Greek Lightning offers a sharp comedic sketch of three preeminent residents of Mt. Olympus: Zeus (Demi Handley), Hades (Ruby Osborne), and Poseidon (Alexandra Polur Gold) caught up in petty, childish squabbles. It is a tidy puncturing of the pomposity inherent in patriarchal mythological structures, made even funnier by casting the three male gods with young girls.
An Eddie Story, by Jacob Craigo-Snell, is a far more nuanced piece that sensitively explores teen angst, but it gains an added level of significance when Eddie, nicely realized by Peyton Stockdale, imagines the scenario of a school shooting in his class. The unfortunate coincidence of a yet another horrific school shooting as this production premieres cannot help but send a chill through the audience as Stockdale delivers the speech with strained emotion. And Craigo-Snell’s writing doesn’t seem sensational or opportunistic in approaching the subject; rather, it seems an entirely natural topic for any American student in this day and age.
Sara Seim’s The Boogie Couple examines the memory of early childhood fears through the lens of satirical absurdity, as Suzie (Olivia Cohen-Freue) debates the relative merits of two monsters from under her bed (Ella Atherton & Willow Pollard) eating her or a nearby neighbor…or even her brother. The tone beautifully captures the dawning self-awareness of a teenager’s nostalgia for childhood.
Zoë Peterson has two pieces of writing in the program. The first, Projectile Dysfunction, is a riotous realization of the archetypal fantasies that recalcitrant students have about their most dreaded teacher/authority figures. What if they really are hiding evil personas beneath their bored exteriors? Connor Madison, Taylor Broder, and especially Alec Elmore, have fun playing the broad comedy, and Hermione Bean-Mills is a comically awkward and ordinary Mrs. Tisdall, who proves to be not at all what she seems. Her second piece, Frigus Auxilium, is a light-hearted take on the fractured fraternity-brother dynamic of a satanic cult and is funny enough not to allow the audience too much time to ponder the implications of a teenager thinking this much about cults. Actually, it seems healthy to satirize such a topic, but what is most provocative is the suspicion that Ms. Peterson actually has mainstream evangelical strains on her mind here. Spencer Neichter is a sneaky delight as a psychopathic cult member whose “infractions” are the catalyst for internecine conflict.
CTC students direct each piece, and Ms. Peterson was at the helm (she had a very good night) of Delaney Hildreth’s Joyride. Along with An Eddie Story, easily the most naturalistic piece, Hildreth charts a simple drive into Louisville with two sisters rediscovering a connection. There is good observation in the writing and Aidan Kash and Genny Friesen play the material in understated fashion.
It is easy to assume that teenagers haven’t seen enough of the world to establish an authoritative point-of-view in the writing, yet when they look back at their immediate history, the memory of adult audience members is powerfully triggered, while their peers respond with a more immediate recognition. And to note that some of the most troubling issues of the day are playing out in the environments in which they dominate – school shootings are quickly being robbed of their ability to shock and are becoming more and more commonplace, seems, sadly, all-too-obvious. Such unfortunate truths demand more than ever before that when young people tell their stories, attention must be paid.
Young Playwrights Festival 2018
February 14-17 @ 7:30pm
February 17 @ 2:00pm
Tickets are $8. House opens 30 minutes before curtain and seating is general admission. Parking is on-street (parallel, no meters) or in the lot behind the building. Call 502-589-0084 or email boxoffice@commonwealththea
Nancy Niles Sexton Stage
Commonwealth Theatre Center
1123 Payne Street
Louisville, KY 40204
Keith Waits is a native of Louisville who works at Louisville Visual Art during the days, including being the host of LVA’s Artebella On The Radio on WXOX 97.1 FM / ARTxFM.com, but spends most of his evenings indulging his taste for theatre, music and visual arts. His work has appeared in Pure Uncut Candy, TheatreLouisville, and Louisville Mojo. He is now Managing Editor for Arts-Louisville.com.