Northpoint Learning Academy student Jason Bartley won the Judges' Choice Award for The Writer's Block while Grand Canyon School student Hailey Gaebel won the Audience Choice Award for The Inner Monster at the 3rd Annual Young Playwrights Festival (YPF) hosted by the Prescott Center for the Arts (PCA) on March 3.
Bartley received high marks from the five YPF judges for his comedy about a writer trying to figure out what to write about in The Writer's Block. Gaebel's intense drama The Inner Monster focusing on mental illness garnered the most votes after audience members' ballots were tallied from both the 2 pm and 6 pm performances of the eight plays selected for the festival.
Other winning playwrights awarded trophies during the closing Award Ceremony for the judged and juried competition were: Tri-City Prep School student Anna Flurry, First Place for her comedy Twelfth Step; Bartley, second place for The Writer's Block; and Liberty Traditional School student Devon Bonelli for his Greek tragedy The Tragedy of Basil, that tied for third place with Sunshine Mountain Home School student Sonora Weisner's comedy Despicable Bee.
Also recognized were the other festival winners that included Gaebel for her drama The Inner Monster, Coyote Springs Elementary School student Nicholas Lanning for his comedy The Meanest Brother, Canon Elementary School student Teran Arthur for his comedy The Office Battle, and Skyview School student Sedona Ortega for her drama Just Listen.
The eight winning plays were selected by the YPF Committee after a group of readers ranked all of the submitted entries from across Yavapai and Coconino Counties. Those eight winners then advanced to the performance phase, where each playwright was paired with a director who cast and rehearsed each original short play for the live performance, complete with costumes, props, lighting, sound, and basic set pieces.
Cason Murphy, co-founder of The@trics Theatre and a graduate of UCLA's School of Theatre and Film, had Gaebel attend his first rehearsal to meet the cast playing the characters she created. One of the goals of the YPF is to provide the winning playwrights the opportunity to experience the process as the director and actors began those initial steps of taking a script from page to stage.
According to Murphy, "A playwright's story doesn't become a play until those words on those pieces of paper are bought to life on a stage before a live audience. Hailey's story, characters, and dialogue gripped me the moment I started reading her play, and I had no doubt that it would be the talk of the festival. I knew I had to be a part of The Inner Monster and told the committee it was the one I wanted to direct. Hailey is a true wordsmith and creative talent, and I predict great things from this young writer."
Jon Meyer, Executive Director of the PCA, and YPF Co-Coordinator, directed Twelfth Step and had Flurry attend his rehearsals as a collaborator in the directing process, "I was amazed by her ability to relate to Shakespeare, and understand his works, and then transforms that theatrical genre into a modern spoof that the two audiences found so fun and entertaining. It was rewarding to see that the future of live theatre is in such good hands."
The YPF Festival Judges, Sharon Carlin, Tim Carter, Linda Miller, Andrew Johnson-Schmit, and Micki Shelton were recognized by Tiffany Antone, YPF Co-Coordinator and director of The Office Battle. She also thanked fellow YPF Reading Team members and YPF Committee members that included Cason Murphy, Karen Murphy, Debra White, Jean Maissen, Jon Meyer, Ian Derk, and Melanie Ewbank; and the other YPF play directors that included Don Langford for The Tragedy of Basil, Clint Slay for Just Listen, Layla Tenney for Despicable Bee, and Mary Timpany for The Writer's Block and The Meanest Brother.
"We could not have been more pleased and proud of this year's festival," said Antone. "Amazing talent was shared on that stage with our audiences. YPF just keeps getting bigger and better each year as our new generation of creative talent is given the opportunity to share what is going on in those phenomenal young brains."