On Tuesday, May 3, Syracuse Stage held its Young Playwrights Festival, an event in which the plays of eight high school playwrights are performed live on stage. This year, four of the eight finalists were Jamesville-DeWitt High School students, including sophomore Josie Dittman, junior Bohdin Bright, and seniors Sarah Kornfeld and Max Oppedisano.
The four J-DHS plays explored a wide range of topics in creative ways. Dittman’s play, “Twingenuity,” examined family dynamics and parental expectations through the lens of a government experiment gone wrong. “ACTOR,” Bright’s play, was about a therapy session turned play when it turns out the client sees the world as if they’re constantly performing on stage. Kornfeld’s play, “The New Agent,” comedically depicted a job interview for the newest COVID-19 variant by two well-known variants: Omicron and Delta. “He Likes Lasagna,” Oppedisano’s play, explored sexuality via the discussion of the beloved comic and cartoon character Garfield.
The festival takes students’ plays through the whole process, from the writing process to the revision stages to, finally, a live performance on stage. Each step posed its own challenges, different for each student. For Kornfeld, “The hardest part was just making the dialogue sound authentic while still maintaining some of the satire and hopefully comedy.” Dittman ended up completely rewriting her play after receiving suggestions at the Syracuse Stage workshop for semi-finalists.
But it was unanimous among all parties that the final performances were phenomenal. Taylor Hendricks, a Syracuse University student who both directed and acted in the plays, said, “Seeing that transition between seeing the cool concepts that each high schooler came up with and how they put that onto the page and then seeing it now go onto the stage was really fun.”
Diego Echeverria De Cordova, also a Syracuse University student who performed in the plays, described the high schoolers’ plays: “I think that there’s a level of rawness to [them] that [they seem] personal to people more of our age.”
For Bright, the performance of his play was “even better than I imagined it being.” Other adjectives used to describe the experience were “crazy,” “amazing,” and “extremely cool,” but also “nerve-racking” and “strange.” However, despite any nervousness, according to Dittman, “Seeing something that you came up with and wrote performed on stage is really something else.”
For students who aren’t involved in theater, and those who are, the festival provides insight into the industry. Kornfeld said, “The coolest part was working with the professionals, and they taught me a lot about the inner workings of theater and acting…”
Dittman agreed: “When you’re watching a play, you’re more thinking of how great of a job an actor did…but the playwright came up with all that and wrote down such great dialogue for that actor, which is unbelievable.”
It was a consensus that other J-DHS students should “definitely” participate in the festival in the future. “Even if you don’t become a finalist,” Bright said, “your English teacher will probably be pleased with you.”
In addition, Syracuse Stage has other opportunities for high school students wanting to get involved. Starting in June, students can apply online to join the Young Adult Council, a group that meets monthly to participate in workshops and watch Syracuse Stage productions, among other things. People over the age of 16 also have the opportunity to usher at Syracuse Stage’s holiday show.