★ Mill Mountain Theatre’s Travis Kendrick asks young playwrights to Write Stuff!

Write Stuff!—Mill Mountain Theatre’s young playwrights program, returns for its second year in 2018. The playwriting competition is open to middle and high school students and the deadline for submissions is Dec. 31, 2017.

writestuffWinning plays will be selected by a panel of Mill Mountain Theatre (MMT) professional artists. The chosen plays will be performed as part of a festival of staged readings on February 10, 2018 on the Waldron Stage. MMT Conservatory students will act in the staged readings directed by MMT staff.

Did you get that? Encourage a young writer to submit a short play by the end of the year, and it could be performed on stage. That’s a pretty cool opportunity, so we went backstage with MMT Director of Education Travis Kendrick to find out more.

BOOK CITY ★ ROANOKE: Congratulations on kicking off the second year of Write Stuff! What did you learn in year one?

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Travis Kendrick: We were blown away last year that there were so many talented young playwrights in the Roanoke valley. There aren’t many opportunities for writers to showcase their work at this age, and we were overjoyed to provide that opportunity. It’s not normally until college or grad school, as a playwright, to see and hear your work performed. I think the best way to learn about your play is to see it and hear it in action.

BCR: No doubt. What surprised you most about the student work?

TK: The talk backs were the most exciting part for me. After each play we’d have the director and playwright sit and answer the audience’s questions. We had a full house for the performance last year, and the audience was super engaged with each of the plays that they saw. They asked really insightful questions and the playwrights had interesting and well thought out answers.

BCR: That’s really valuable feedback for the young playwrights and the entire team. What kind of feedback did you get from participants?

TK: They love working on new plays. There’s something really exciting about originating a character. It isn’t often that young people get to be involved in brand new plays: learning how scripts change, how characters are developed, and how to work with a playwright in the room.

BCR: For those writers out there who haven’t written for the stage, how is it a unique challenge?

There’s an old saying that ‘A play isn’t just an ordinary day, it’s a special moment in a character’s story.’ Writing for the stage is sifting through characters’ lives and pulling out the most life changing and unique experiences. Playwrights have to, with fewer words on the page compared to a novel, tell a greater story.

BCR: How did you see our community reflected in those stories last year? Was there any particular sense of Roanoke as a place in the work?

TK: I see our diverse community reflected in all aspects of the work, whether it’s on stage, behind the scenes, on the page. We had students of all ages, backgrounds, and prior experience participate in last year’s performance.

BCR: Terrific. People really do make the place. Is there any particular type of work that you’re especially interested in seeing this year?

I don’t think that student writers or young playwrights need to worry about exposition, or setting up the story for the audience. Through dialogue and situations within the play, things can become clearer than you think. I’m also interested in plays that go beyond realism. I want students to feel free to explore plays that don’t fit the traditional play mold, whether it includes music, media, and more.

BCR: That’s really freeing guidance. Thanks, Travis. We’ll look forward to seeing the outcome in February.

Here’s more information on submitting: Scripts, 10-15 minutes in length, should be formatted as PDFs and emailed to education@millmountain.org with the subject line “Write Stuff! Submission.” The deadline for script submissions is January 1st, 2018. Winners will be notified by January 15th, 2018. Performance and presentation of winning plays will be February 10th, 2018 on MMT’s Waldron Stage. Learn more about Mill Mountain Theatre and its programs at www.millmountain.org.

Travis Kendrick co-wrote the book and lyrics to DOTTY DOT: A Children’s Musical, which had a staged reading and workshop production with Experimental Theatre Project, toured elementary schools in Pittsburgh, and then had its professional premiere in New York City at The Secret Theatre—a class that was extended and went on to run for over a year. Learn more about Travis at www.traviskendrick.com.

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