NEW JERSEY – The Theater Project, an award-winning professional company and incubator for rising artists, is once again reaching out to creative young people in its 20th annual Young Playwrights Competition. Winners receive cash prizes and see their work performed by professional actors at the Zoom awards ceremony in the spring. This event is made possible in part by a grant from the Investors Savings Bank Foundation.The submission deadline to enter the 2022 competition is January 22. New Jersey’s high school playwrights submit their short plays at TheTheaterProject.org web site, where they will find all the necessary entry guidelines and formatting rules.
“Kids need us to listen,” says artistic director Mark Spina. “Every year one of our winners tells us, ‘I would never have tried to do this if I hadn’t heard about the competition.’ By providing this forum, we hope to inspire more young people to write, and to exercise the verbal abilities, critical thinking skills and creativity that they need to succeed in any field.” Several past winners of the Playwrights Competition have gone on to pursue degrees in theater and playwriting, and they often return to The Theater Project’s event to present prizes and share their journeys with the newest honorees.
Theater Project playwrights are available for virtual classroom site visits to help student writers get started; interested schools can contact the company at [email protected]. After the contest winners have been announced, The Theater Project offers free tutorials to any interested entrant: a half hour script consultation with an adult playwright or director.
“We want to make sure that kids know their creative efforts are valued by showcasing them for the community,” says program coordinator and Theater Project board president Kevin Carver. “Arts education sometimes gets short-changed as schools struggle to meet so many demands, especially during these challenging times. But when kids lose out on arts experiences, they miss opportunities to develop critical thinking skills that are needed now more than ever.”
The winning playwrights receive cash prizes; the honorable mentions are awarded gift certificates. In 2021, Brennan Columbia-Walsh, Montclair Kimberley Academy in Montclair and Alejandro Espinal, Academy for Performing Arts in Scotch Plains, shared first prize. Ryan Rosenthal, Cranford High School, and Julian Martin, Scotch Plains-Fanwood, captured second and third, respectively.
Ava Chickering (Montclair Kimberley Academy), Christiana Gabor (Holmdel High School), Lucille O’Donnell (Thomas Jefferson Arts Academy), Emily Hammond (The Lawrenceville School), Maddie Pritchet (OCVTS Performing Arts Academy), Tierney Maurer (Holmdel High School), and Veronica Vogelman (Princeton Day School) won honorable mentions.