San Diego Playwrights

Getting San Diego Playwrights Produced on San Diego Stages

How to Work with a Dramaturg–An Interview with Jessica Ordon

California Jack Cassidy has compiled a list of dramaturgs and editors who work with San Diego playwrights. https://sandiegoplaywrights.wordpress.com/dramaturgeseditors/ Here is his interview with dramaturg Jessica Ordon.

Jessica Ordon

Jessica Ordon

As a dramaturg, you help make new plays work. You have a greater enthusiasm for your job than most people I know. Can you talk about that?

Maybe it’s just youthful idealism. But yes, I’m very excited about helping make new plays work. I think my enthusiasm comes out of a deep passion for theatre. This may sound trite, but I believe theatre has the potential to make the world a better place by starting conversations and by amplifying the voices of those whose experiences and stories are underrepresented in mainstream culture. How do we keep theatre relevant, and important, and world-changing? We keep writing good plays! And we keep encouraging and inviting people of all backgrounds to write, so that our theatre can be a richer, more varied, more diverse mosaic of voices.

You’re working with the winners of the California Young Playwrights Contest. What’s that like?

It’s always a joy to work with such smart, creative young people. Most are good students– they remind me of me. 😉 But also, every year, I’m pleasantly surprised by what young writers bring to the stage. I find myself reading or seeing the plays and thinking, “A 15-year-old wrote this? That writer is 17?!” Because I think that the themes and the stories in these plays, as well as the honesty and poignancy with which they are approached, are worthy of any experienced adult playwright. This year’s Plays by Young Writers Festival is no exception!

You also work with Native American playwrights as your day job. That must open you up to different views of modern culture.

Yes, I work as a literary assistant for Native Voices at the Autry, which focuses on the development of Native American theatre artists (though I am non-Native). Working with Native Voices has definitely heightened my awareness of diversity (or lack thereof) in mainstream theatre. It’s made me much more sensitive to issues of cultural representation onstage. But what I love most about Native Voices is their play development process, which lends itself so completely to the writer and his/her development as an artist. I feel like the company cultivates a real culture of generosity, collaboration, and care around new playwriting. I don’t know that it’s necessarily a Native thing– but to me, it’s the mark of a great theatre company under really good leadership.

There are cities with larger and better-funded theater communities than San Diego. Why do you work here? 

To be honest, I moved to San Diego just to try it out. It was my boyfriend’s idea and it was a good one, because we like it here. But there is a definite tension surrounding the fact that there are larger and better-funded theatre communities elsewhere, as you say, and we’re two young people who really need to work! So there’s some pressure to migrate. On the other hand, there’s always the optimistic notion of staying to help build a larger, better-funded theatre community right here. We’ll see what happens!

Do you have any tips for playwrights on how to work with a dramaturg?

The first tip is to try it, if you haven’t before! The second tip would be to trust your dramaturg. Take advantage of having their feedback, and use it as a learning opportunity about how to see your own work. Evaluating your play for strengths and weakness is difficult to do objectively on your own, but it’s a great skill to try to develop. Use your dramaturg to double-check your gut instincts and observations about your play. Final tip– don’t be afraid to push back. Don’t be a limp noodle! When a dramaturg makes a suggestion, it is truly with the best interests of your play at heart. But if you feel confused about where that suggestion comes from, how to implement it, or you simply don’t like it– don’t be afraid to disagree! Have your own opinions! The only thing more alarming than working with a playwright who makes no changes to their play at all is working with a playwright who makes EVERY change suggested to them and completely compromises the integrity of their play.

San Diego Playwrights has a listing of dramaturgs who work with local writers. I love the idea of getting help on my plays. But I don’t have much experience with this. What steps should I take to get off to a good playwright/dramaturg relationship?

This is a wonderful question and I’m glad you asked. For anyone interested in being a dramaturg or curious about hiring one, the Literary Managers and Dramaturgs of the Americas (LMDA) offers a brilliant (free) resource called the Employment Guidelines. (Find it here: http://www.lmda.org/resources/employmentguidelines) In this document, you can read up on different situations in which a dramaturg may be hired, as well as industry standards on services dramaturgs offer, how to credit the dramaturg, how to come up with a contact or letter of agreement, etc. There is even a page of suggested fees for different types of dramaturgical services.

What I’ve learned from these guidelines (and from past experience) is to always have an honest conversation at the outset of any project or collaboration about what either party expects from this working relationship. For playwrights hoping to hire a dramaturg, you should begin with a discussion about what you want to get out of the process. Be clear about your expectations, and your dramaturg should do likewise. For example, if you want feedback on your play, it’s important to agree with the dramaturg on what constitutes “feedback.” A page of written notes? A phone call? Script coverage? Also, set an end goal. Are you looking to finish a first draft for submission? Are you polishing a nearly complete draft for production? What’s your deadline (date) for completing the script in its current form?

Once you’ve sorted out these details, it is highly recommended that there be some kind of written contract or letter of agreement. This doesn’t have to be scary or difficult– think of it instead as a guideline or a way of documenting what you hope to achieve. Get this part done early so that it doesn’t get in the way later.

Thank you, Jessica! It’s great to have you on our dramaturg resource list. And we’re looking forward to the Plays by Young Writers this year.

There are two different programs that will be presented from January 22 to February 1, at the Old Globe.

For more information and reservations, please contact Playwrights Project at (858) 384-2970 or write@playwrightsproject.org. Visit http://www.playwrightsproject.org.

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California Young Playwrights Contest Winner–Alberto (Bert) Cordova

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Playwrights Project will produce its 30th annual festival of Plays by Young Writers at The Sheryl and Harvey White Theatre in the Conrad Prebys Theatre Center at The Old Globe on January 22 – February 1, 2015. The festival will feature winning scripts from its California Young Playwrights Contest for ages 18 and under.

Contest winners were selected from 581 plays submitted by students from across the state. Four scripts will receive full professional productions, and four scripts will receive staged readings in this highly regarded festival of new voices.

Alberto (Bert) Cordova

Alberto (Bert) Cordova

Crown Prince Crazy
By Alberto Cordova
Age 18, Escondido
Directed by George Yé

Crown Prince Crazy was written by 18-year-old Alberto (Bert) Cordova who graduated from Orange Glen High School in Escondido this past June. Bert wrote his play during the Playwrights Project program Border Lines\Fronteras de Lineas led by Erika Phillips and James Pillar. The play gives a theatrical glimpse into the internal and external influences impacting a 16-year-old boy who must decide whether to accompany his family back to Mexico or remain rooted and alone in his life in the USA.

How did you first get involved with writing?
I have always had a passion for expressing what I think. I would say that working with Playwrights Project is my biggest accomplishment as far as writing.

How did you come up with the idea for your script?
I used inspiration from my own life. There were things that I needed to resolve so I thought it would be best to create characters and situations where all of this was resolved in fiction. The play is about a teenage boy – it’s a coming of age story. He is battling voices inside his head, which seems kind of far-fetched until you understand that these voices are products of his outside world.

What themes are involved in your piece?
I think the biggest theme is family, and the other themes that I want to touch upon are authority and identity.

What is the message you hope the audience takes away with them?
To understand the world around you, you need to fully understand what’s going on inside your own head.

Do you plan to continue writing?
I plan to keep writing my poetry and spoken word. I’ve turned a lot of those into raps, so I plan to keep doing that. As for playwriting, if I can strengthen my playwriting then I could see myself focusing on that.

What do you want to be when you grow up?
When I grow up I want to be happy…and satisfied. The only way I can do that is by going my way. Unfortunately if that means rejecting a lot of preconceived plans, I’ll do it. I want to be satisfied.

For more information and reservations, please contact Playwrights Project at (858) 384-2970 or write@playwrightsproject.org. Visit http://www.playwrightsproject.org.

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California Young Playwrights Contest Winner–Eliana Pipes

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Playwrights Project will produce its 30th annual festival of Plays by Young Writers at The Sheryl and Harvey White Theatre in the Conrad Prebys Theatre Center at The Old Globe on January 22 – February 1, 2015. The festival will feature winning scripts from its California Young Playwrights Contest for ages 18 and under.

Contest winners were selected from 581 plays submitted by students from across the state. Four scripts will receive full professional productions, and four scripts will receive staged readings in this highly regarded festival of new voices.

Eliana Pipes

Eliana Pipes

From Another House

By Eliana Pipes

Age 17, Altadena

Directed by Rosina Reynolds

From Another House was written by Eliana Pipes from Altadena, who submitted three noteworthy plays to this year’s contest. Eliana has had a play produced at The Blank Theatre in LA and is currently a freshman at Columbia University. This seriocomic play explores what really defines a family when a young woman connects with a father who never knew she existed. Aleta Barthell is serving as Eliana’s writing mentor as Eliana continues to develop the play for production.

How did you first get involved with writing?

When I was in elementary school, I was lucky enough to participate in a workshop with the Young Storytellers Foundation where I got to write a script and see it staged as part of an after school program. In my junior year of high school, that experience fed into my desire to write a play again. I was at an arts school for theatre, and I found myself disappointed by the same female characters I saw emerging over and over again. For me, writing was a way to create the roles for women that I feel are lacking in the dramatic landscape.

How did you come up with the idea of your script?

The plot of my script evolved a lot since its inception. I’ve always been interested in writing families, and I really like the idea of scripts that are written as one continuous scene, because of the way it requires a direct buildup of tension.

What themes are involved in your piece?

For me, the central question of this play is “what makes a family?” Is it the people you love? The ones you spend your time with? The ones whose genes you share? I also touch on ideas about who controls history, and what it means to be the “other.”

What is the message you hope the audience takes away with them?

I hope the audience leaves the theatre reflecting on their own families, and the secrets they keep.

Do you plan to continue writing?

I absolutely plan to continue writing scripts for the stage. I’m also interested in writing screenplays, and challenging myself to write fiction.

What do you want to be when you grow up?

I would love to be a professional actor-writer, preforming in my own work. The actor-writer model is becoming more and more common, particularly for women, and I think it’s an incredible opportunity for an artist to see an idea fully realized.

For more information and reservations, please contact Playwrights Project at (858) 384-2970 or write@playwrightsproject.org. Visit http://www.playwrightsproject.org.

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California Young Playwrights Contest Winner–Sol Manuel Garza

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Playwrights Project will produce its 30th annual festival of Plays by Young Writers at The Sheryl and Harvey White Theatre in the Conrad Prebys Theatre Center at The Old Globe on January 22 – February 1, 2015. The festival will feature winning scripts from its California Young Playwrights Contest for ages 18 and under.

Contest winners were selected from 581 plays submitted by students from across the state. Four scripts will receive full professional productions, and four scripts will receive staged readings in this highly regarded festival of new voices.

Sol Manuel Garza

Sol Manuel Garza

With Your Own Eyes
By Sol Manuel Garza
Age 14, San Marcos
Directed by Derek Livingston

With Your Own Eyes by Sol Manuel Garza is a futuristic play about a boy who doesn’t realize the degree to which he’s tied to the grid, until his uncle taps into the system. Sol Manuel wrote the play in English class at High Tech High North County, taught by Carol Cabrera, who began teaching playwriting with Playwrights Project. Derek Livingston, Plays by Young Writers Festival Producer, is serving as Sol Manuel’s writing mentor to help develop the play for production.

How did you first get involved with writing?
I have been exploring my ideas through writing and art since a young age. Most of the ideas I write about start out as drawings. Some of the ways that I began to write included keeping journals, creating comic strips, writing short stories and experimenting with longer stories.

How did you come up with the idea of your script?
The ideas for my story emerged out of my interests in science fiction as a literary genre that helps people to re-examine their everyday practices and societal assumptions. When I read Fahrenheit 451, I was inspired by Ray Bradbury’s ideas about technology and its effect on creating a dehumanizing society. My idea for my script came from several articles I read about personalizing technology to individuals, watching the steep increase of iPhones and constant texting, and merging human biology with technology. All of these influenced my story and its themes.

What themes are involved in your piece?
The themes of my play have to do with being free vs. being manipulated through technology. It’s about what it means to be human and to what extent does technology enhance our humanity and when does technology become invasive and prevent us from being fully human. These themes speak to the increasingly inconspicuous power of modern technology and its tightening grip on all of our lives. Another powerful theme of my play is the strength of the family bond as shown in the relationship between Uncle Will and Trey. There is something special about human relationships that technology cannot replace.

What is the message you hope the audience takes away with them?
The main message I want people to take away with them is that even though we are, as a society, overwhelmingly “plugged into the grid” and dependent on technology, it is never too late to put down your phone, and open your eyes to the wonders of the real world and the uniqueness of interpersonal relationships.

Do you plan to continue writing?
I am always developing stories in my head and it would be impossible for me to stop writing, the same way it would be impossible for me to stop drawing. Currently, I am creating a new story. I enjoy developing the characters, the dialogue between characters, the ideas for settings and outlining interesting plots. For me, writing is a way of thinking and exploring ideas whether through a comic strip, a play or a novel.

What do you want to be when you grow up?
I enjoy the creative process and want to be engaged in writing and in the visual and performing arts throughout my life. I believe that it is vital to incorporate the arts in whatever career I end up pursuing. Doing so will help me to live a well-rounded, healthy life and make meaningful contributions to my community.

For more information and reservations, please contact Playwrights Project at (858) 384-2970 or write@playwrightsproject.org. Visit http://www.playwrightsproject.org.

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California Young Playwrights Contest Winner–Tricia Mendoza

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Playwrights Project will produce its 30th annual festival of Plays by Young Writers at The Sheryl and Harvey White Theatre in the Conrad Prebys Theatre Center at The Old Globe on January 22 – February 1, 2015. The festival will feature winning scripts from its California Young Playwrights Contest for ages 18 and under.

Contest winners were selected from 581 plays submitted by students from across the state. Four scripts will receive full professional productions, and four scripts will receive staged readings in this highly regarded festival of new voices.

Tricia Mendoza

Tricia Mendoza

One Magical Day

By Tricia Mendoza

Age 14, Rancho Peñasquitos

Directed by Erika Phillips

One Magical Day by Tricia Mendoza, age 14, was written when Tricia took part in a playwriting program led by Wendy Waddell at Black Mountain Middle School. The play tells the story of a surprisingly young fairy godmother who has a hard time finding a deserving human to help. Plays by Young Writers alumna Rachael VanWormer is serving as Tricia’s writing mentor/dramaturg.

How did you first get involved with writing?

I have been involved with writing ever since I learned how to write. I’ve always loved making new worlds and creating my own characters.

How did you come up with the idea of your script?

The idea for my script came from my love of Disney animated films and it influenced a lot of my story. I love the heart and the message that each movie has.

What themes are involved in your piece?

The theme that is involved with my piece is the importance of dreams and the determination not to give up on them.

What is the message you hope the audience takes away with them?

The message that I hope the audience takes away is that dreams are important no matter how big or small and the only way that you can make them come true is if you believe.

Do you plan to continue writing?

I don’t know if I plan to continue writing because my ideas for writing come from a huge wave of creativity and it depends on when I get another one.

What do you want to be when you grow up?

I’m not certain yet because in a few years I could change my mind, but today I’ll say that I want to work for Disney and be able to tell my own stories.

For more information and reservations, please contact Playwrights Project at (858) 384-2970 or write@playwrightsproject.org. Visit http://www.playwrightsproject.org.

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California Young Playwrights Contest Winner–Jerusha Israel

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Playwrights Project will produce its 30th annual festival of Plays by Young Writers at The Sheryl and Harvey White Theatre in the Conrad Prebys Theatre Center at The Old Globe on January 22 – February 1, 2015. The festival will feature winning scripts from its California Young Playwrights Contest for ages 18 and under.

Contest winners were selected from 581 plays submitted by students from across the state. Four scripts will receive full professional productions, and four scripts will receive staged readings in this highly regarded festival of new voices.

Jerusha Israel

Jerusha Israel

She Remembers

by Jerusha Israel

Age 13, Rancho Peñasquitos

Directed by Derek Livingston

In She Remembers by Jerusha Israel, an 80-year-old woman questions the meaning of life when her lifelong friend’s memory fades. Jerusha took part in a playwriting program at Black Mountain Middle School led by Wendy Waddell.  Plays by Young Writers alumna Rachael VanWormer is serving as Jerusha’s writing mentor/dramaturg.

How did you come up with the idea of your script?

I came up with the idea of my script to express what I felt during the last few days of middle school.

What themes are involved in your piece?

The main theme of my play is that God has a reason for everything.

Do you plan to continue writing?

I do not know if I plan to continue writing.

What do you want to be when you grow up?

I want to be in the medical field when I grow up.

For more information and reservations, please contact Playwrights Project at (858) 384-2970 or write@playwrightsproject.org. Visit http://www.playwrightsproject.org.

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California Young Playwrights Contest Winner–Matthew Maceda

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Playwrights Project will produce its 30th annual festival of Plays by Young Writers at The Sheryl and Harvey White Theatre in the Conrad Prebys Theatre Center at The Old Globe on January 22 – February 1, 2015. The festival will feature winning scripts from its California Young Playwrights Contest for ages 18 and under.

Contest winners were selected from 581 plays submitted by students from across the state. Four scripts will receive full professional productions, and four scripts will receive staged readings in this highly regarded festival of new voices.

Matthew Maceda

Matthew Maceda

Coffee, Cream, & Closure

By Matthew Maceda

Age 15, Torrey Highlands

Directed by George Yé

Coffee, Cream, and Closure was written by Matthew Maceda, who attends Westview High School. The play examines how we look at death, as a young business woman reconnects with her deceased father through the help of a medium she meets at a coffee shop. At age 15, this is Matthew’s first year competing in the older division of the contest, after winning readings three years in a row in the younger division. (Read his previous interview here: https://sandiegoplaywrights.wordpress.com/2014/02/24/california-young-playwrights-contest-winner-matthew-maceda/) Founder Deborah Salzer is serving as writing mentor/dramaturg, supporting the playwright in further developing his play.

How did you first get involved with writing?

I was introduced to Playwrights Project when the organization did a residency program in my sixth grade class. Once the program finished, my writing partner and I decided to submit our script into the California Young Playwrights Contest. We ended up winning that year, and since then I’ve never wanted to stop being involved with Playwrights Project.

What themes are involved in your piece?

My play focuses mainly on people’s perception of death and the unbreakable bond between us and the ones we love.

What is the message you hope the audience takes away with them?

I hope that the audience recognizes that the connection we have with our loved ones doesn’t end after they die. Also, I would like the audience to remember the importance of cherishing family and friends.

Do you plan to continue writing?

Absolutely! I have so many potential ideas that I think would make fantastic plays.

What do you want to be when you grow up?

I’m torn between being a screenplay writer, environmental planner, and professional soccer player.

For more information and reservations, please contact Playwrights Project at (858) 384-2970 or write@playwrightsproject.org. Visit http://www.playwrightsproject.org.

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California Young Playwrights Contest Winner–Ke’Ona

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Playwrights Project will produce its 30th annual festival of Plays by Young Writers at The Sheryl and Harvey White Theatre in the Conrad Prebys Theatre Center at The Old Globe on January 22 – February 1, 2015. The festival will feature winning scripts from its California Young Playwrights Contest for ages 18 and under.

Contest winners were selected from 581 plays submitted by students from across the state. Four scripts will receive full professional productions, and four scripts will receive staged readings in this highly regarded festival of new voices.

Ke'Ona

Ke’Ona

Light                       

By Ke’Ona

Age 17, Escondido

Directed by Rosina Reynolds

Light was written by Ke’Ona, who took part in our playwriting program co-taught by her classroom teacher Ms. Ramirez and Playwrights Project Executive Director Cecelia Kouma. Ke’Ona’s play is about an African American teen living with her grandmother in kinship care, struggling with racial prejudice, a family that resents her, and a boyfriend with a dangerous lifestyle. The playwright is working with writing mentor Monique Gaffney, who performed the play during class sessions along with other Playwrights Project actors, who read the students’ plays aloud and discussed possible revisions with the playwrights and returned on the final day of classes to perform finished plays for students and invited guests.

How did you first get involved with writing?

I got involved with writing when I was in sixth grade and one of my elective classes was expressive writing. Ever since then I’ve always used writing as a coping method and to express myself.

How did you come up with the idea of your script?

My English teacher Ms. Ramirez told us to write about a subject that’s important to you and how it affected your life. So I thought, my family’s important to me and so is the social conflict that is constant in the black community.

What themes are involved in your piece?

In my play I have themes that include family dynamic, teenage drug use, the light skin and dark skin issue in the black community, sibling relationships, and dating relationships that push age boundaries.

What is the message you hope the audience takes away with them?

I hope the audience is enlightened on the social issues within the play and are able to relate to the dialogue and situations.

Do you plan to continue writing?

Absolutely. Writing has always been a part of my life and I hope to grow as a writer through the Playwrights Project process.

What do you want to be when you grow up?

I want to be a child psychologist and help children with learning disabilities.

For more information and reservations, please contact Playwrights Project at (858) 384-2970 or write@playwrightsproject.org. Visit http://www.playwrightsproject.org.

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