Junior high and high school programs throughout Utah participated in Salt Lake Community College’s Grand Youth New Voices Playwriting Festival on Jan. 29.
Over 200 students from across the region submitted 10-minute self-produced plays. Only two from each school were chosen to receive professional feedback from an unnamed playwright from Los Angeles.
“They started with conceiving ideas and learning what story structure is,” said SLCC theatre program director Zachary Curtis. “They started with 1-minute plays and finally extended them to 10-minute plays that we see here.”
The festival featured six winning plays performed by students in the SLCC theater program. Performances included “Take the Elevator” by Noah Denhalter; “To each their own” by Lillie Haarala; “Goblet Anonymous” by Thomas Wright; “Learning to Dance in the Rain” by Erin Peterson and “The Cows” by Ethan Buckner.
The playwriting festival gave young voices an opportunity to challenge themselves and express their ideas in a different way.
“The most difficult part was writing a whole story,” said 13-year-old Haarala, the youngest playwright who was part of the festival. “There is a whole universe in your head and you have to condense it to the couple of minutes and pages you see here.”
Peterson, a 17-year-old junior, enjoyed the process.
“It was amazing and so much fun,” she said. “I was inspired by different experiences and people that I know in my life, piecing together a very common issue that people have. People my age struggle with mental health so I pulled from those different experiences.”
The festival performances took place over Zoom, with the same SLCC students switching characters for every show.
“Playing so many different characters was great practice for myself. It gave me perspectives to change within a minute. It wasn’t tremendously difficult but I had a lot of fun,” said Breanna, one of the student actors. “I am very honored to be doing the show for the playwrights. Young minds can produce such amazing pieces of work.”