By Sydney Keller
Pittsburgh Current Intern
City Theatre has announced the winners of the annual EQT Young Playwrights Contest for their 20th anniversary. The contest acts as a way to encourage young adults and children to be involved in theatre at a young age. The six selected playwrights are chosen across western Pennsylvania and northern West Virginia. All winners will receive a professional production of their plays at the EQT Young Playwrights Festival in the fall.
Former Director of Education and Accessibility Kristen Link, who has since taken a new job, believes theater offers so much more than people give credit. Theatre is a way for people in a community to come together and engage in different views and conversations with one another, Link emphasizes.
“I think that the arts are a great way for young adults and adults to come together, connect and explore different issues to allow them different perspectives on our world,” Link said. “It can really illuminate the experience of different worlds and different lives.”
Link does not have just one favorite part about the contest but highlights its three large components which include the contest in itself, the in-school residency that is offered and the festival which brings each play to the professional stage.
“We are in one of my favorite portions of the program where we just announced the winners of the contest,” Link said.
After the winners are announced, they begin the rewrite process and work with professionals to improve their plays and experience critiques in a professional environment. The students spend all summer preparing for their production.
The Young Playwrights Festival will be held from Oct. 22-31 and features six one-act plays chosen from 400 entries. The featured plays are Flight by Amelia Staresinic, Love and Lightning by Athena Iverson, Words by Ava Weidensall, All Hallow’s Eve by Kelsey Geary, The December’s Cold by Polina Soldatova and The Dream Series by Jordan Jackson.
“I think one of my favorite things about it, first and foremost, is that we’re championing the students’ voice and their perspective,” Link said. “It begins with their story.
“We’re all working together as creative professionals and collaborating to bring their story to life and it’s really empowering.”
After being involved with the contest for eleven years, Link knows what to expect from these young adults and her expectations never change.
“I’m always constantly impressed by not only the quality of writing, but the content and subject matter the students are tackling,” Link said. “It’s very clear that they’re in tune with the state of the world and the maturity of often times the subject matter they’re taking on.”
Education and Accessibility Manager Katie Trupiano has been a teaching artist for the EQT Young Playwrights Contest for seven years, but this past year she began to work behind the scenes as the education and accessibility manager.
Trupiano highlights the importance of the contest and how it allows students to utilize their voices in new and creative ways.
“It gives [the students] an outlet that they may not have explored before to tell their stories, whether they are fictional or based on a true story they experienced,” Trupiano said. “It gives them a way to tell their story without being judged or worried about what grown-ups might think.”
Teaching artists spend time with their students in the residency program one on one and the professional gives students direct feedback.
“I feel like that really makes a huge difference to be able to sit down with someone who works in the world of theatre and to hear what they have to say directly about your play,” Trupiano said.
Trupiano enjoys how students experience a different perspective of their play when they first hear it read out loud.
“I really enjoy when students first hear their scene out loud,” Trupiano said. “They have these big light bulb moments.”
Trupiano emphasizes that this year’s festival is the 20th anniversary and that there will be a lot to celebrate.
“It’s really exciting for the playwrights to see their finished products live on stage with professional actors,” Trupiano said. “Making that giant leap from page to the stage is a really big moment, so seeing the playwrights reactions when they see their finished play produced is very exciting.”