Upper Arlington News

Young Writers Short Play Festival

Students' work center stage at MadLab Theatre

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The work of nine student playwrights will be featured this summer at MadLab Theatre's 2013 Young Writers Short Play Festival.

Performances are scheduled at 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, July 26-Aug. 10, at MadLab Theatre, 227 N. Third St., Columbus.

Tickets are $12 per person; $10 for students and senior citizens and $8 for MadLab members. They may be purchased online at madlab.net or by calling 614-221-5418.

Michelle Batt, artistic outreach director, said the short plays were written by Columbus area high school students.

Batt also directs some of the plays and is managing director at MadLab. She said the playwrights guide the students in revising the plays.

"One of the most important things we do at MadLab is to make the writer important and help them know that the writer's vision is key," she said. "At the same time, the vision of the student benefits from the collaboration and vision of the director."

Students chosen from Upper Arlington High School are recent graduate Anna Mulhall, who wrote Little Red, and senior Lexy Weixel, who wrote Dead End.

The other young playwrights are Kinsey Cantrell and Abigail Goodhart from Hilliard Bradley High School, who wrote Priestly and Aunt Elly, respectively; Hannah Russell, Columbus Alternative High School, author of Closing Closet Doors; Em Hammett, The Wellington School, Married to Melinda Reuben Foster; Sarah Fornshell, Columbus Academy, Sweet Nothings; Amelia Koontz, CAHS, In Love and War and Emily Cipriani, Columbus Academy, Neither Here Nor There.

"We send out information on the submission process early in the year and teachers connect with students to help them submit their plays," Batt said. "From there, we choose which students our professional playwrights will work with.

"The playwrights help the students hone and polish the shows, then we do two stage readings before the student submits a final draft, which is what we produce for the show."

She said the plays are about 15 pages long, which translates to roughly 10 minutes on stage.

"We had 35 submissions this year at the beginning of the program," she said.

Batt said the MadLab playwrights help choose the students and plays.

"We have five playwright mentors and each gets two students to work with," she said.

Once the students finish their plays, they are able to come to auditions and rehearsals, sitting in on every aspect of producing, Batt said. Some even act in the productions.

Weixel will portray Kalyn in Neither Here Nor There and Taylor in In Love and War. She has acted in high school plays and other MadLab Theatre productions.

"I like acting better than writing, because I'm better at it, in my opinion," she said. "I wrote an earlier version of this play for our high school's Little Theatre, but it was encouraging to have it picked for MadLab. After the revisions, I'm really happy with it now."

She said the overall character and plot are the same as her original version of Dead End, which is about death.

"I ended up changing the intent of it, so there is a choice the main character has to make at the end," she said. "Seeing it come to life on the stage is really cool. This time, the play is being produced downtown, so it is exciting but nerve-wracking.

"I hope people like it, but at the same time, it is really great to have it out there."

She hopes to major in theater and minor in teaching when she attends college.

Mulhall's Little Red tells the story of Henry and his "almost" wife Margo, as their relationship falls apart.

"It is told in a twisty, kind of weird way, so it is a little unconventional, but fun," Mulhall said.

She has been involved in theater and acted in productions during all four years at Upper Arlington High School.

"I was really excited to have my play chosen for MadLab," she said. "I had come to see the shows, but never worked with the playwrights."

She said the idea for the play was conceived in chemistry class.

"The main character is a scientist and very analytical as he tries to deal with the loss of his wife by memorizing and reciting book quotes," she said.

Mulhall will attend Otterbein University in the fall, and plans a double major in theater and English.

"My dream job would be to become a working playwright, but I am also interested in directing and costumes and a lot of aspects of the theater," she said. "We'll see what I love the most."

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