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Plays by Young Writers

“Plays by Young Writers” runs through January 26, 2019 at the Old Globe’s Sheryl and Harvey White Theatre, 1363 Old Globe Way in Balboa Park.
Photo credit:
"A Mother's Mother" photo by Ken Jacques

Religion vs. self-determination, a mother-daughter conversation and a musical about trash are on offer in the fully-staged section of the latest Plays by Young Writers Festival, onstage at the Old Globe’s White Theatre through Jan. 26.

San Diego’s Playwrights Project, which has been mentoring budding playwrights for 34 years, offers the latest winners from the 415 plays submitted by writers from ages 11 to 18 at the Old Globe’s White Theatre through Jan. 26. Ruff Yeager is artistic director of the festival.

Opening night featured two fully staged short plays and a first for the series: a clever, delightful musical called “Trash! The Musical.”

In 16-year-old Jack Ventimilia’s “Sea of Fog,” two social outsiders explore the place of religion in society. Denise (Jalani Blankenship) and Daxx (Daniel Woods), fellow group therapy members, strike up a conversation in a church courtyard. Denise is religious and desperate to “save” Daxx, who doesn’t believe in God and craves human, not spiritual connection.

I have experience with this situation, so, unfortunately, I knew it would be unrewarding for both. But Woods brings Daxx alive with a fine interpretation.

Blankenship shows dedication, but needs more experience with theater in the round and the greater articulation required to get the lines across.

“A Mother’s Mother” opens with an argument between mom Willa (Lettie S. De Anda) and pregnant, 17-year old daughter Billie (Nancy Batres) about what to order for lunch.

But it soon becomes more serious than that, as it is revealed that both Willa and Billie got pregnant at 17. The stigma and responsibilities of their actions are the main thrust of the plot and nicely expressed in 16-year-old playwright Emma Kuli’s script – and well played onstage by Batres and De Anda.

Naomi Melville’s “Trash! The Musical” is the real find, bringing originality, cleverness and a message all wrapped up in a plot in which ultimate outsiders – items that have been tossed into the trash – become flesh and are given names and personalities.

We meet the four characters in an urban alley, where blasé Rusty (Diego Castro) seems to be in charge, giving The Word to TommyTran as Texas (a discarded Texas Instruments calculator) and Amy Perkins as Doll, all pink from head to toe, who likes to dance and is convinced that she was trashed by mistake and doesn’t belong here.

When new arrival Trash (Claudette Santiago) shows up in a white dress made of post-it notes stuck together, the jaded Rusty welcomes her with this comment: “ I hope you didn’t think you were anything special. You got dumped here because nobody wanted you. You’re stuck here, kid. Hope you enjoy it.”

Then he sings “Welcome To The Trash.”

But Trash, upbeat and sunny of disposition, won’t hear such negativity. “There are good things about the trash,” she says. “At least we’re all equal.”

Melville shows real talent for writing engaging characters, clever dialog and winning songs. This show could (and should, in my opinion) be expanded into at least a one-act musical.

Two other plays are also included in this year’s slate. We did not see them opening night, but they will get staged readings. They are: “Just Let Me Help,” by 14-year-olds Marco Herrera and Chris Johnson; and “Have Hope,” by Shyla de Hopp, age 11. 

I left this event as I always do: confident that the future of American theater is in good hands.

The details

“Plays by Young Writers” runs through January 26, 2019 at the Old Globe’s Sheryl and Harvey White Theatre, 1363 Old Globe Way in Balboa Park.

Plays at various times through Jan. 26. There are two programs.

Check online HERE.

Tickets: (858) 384-2970 or playwrightsproject.org