Film noir, milkshakes, and an open mind

The 10th Annual Young Playwrights Festival takes place this week, with productions of six plays by thrilling young voices (grades 7-12) from our region, and an array of free workshops open to the same age group on Saturday and Sunday. For the full schedule of performances and workshops, click here. Isabel (Izzy) D’Angelo from Washington High School is one of the playwrights receiving a production in this year’s Festival. In her play Betrayal, Alex and Lily are the picture-perfect couple. Together they’ve built a loving marriage, a comfortable daily routine, and a traditional, cozy home: husband, wife, and little dog. But a dark secret reveals the crack in this picturesque façade, and an unthinkable deal seals the betrayal that will propel the perfect household toward a tragic and inevitable end. (To see other playwrights and play descriptions, click here.)

by Isabel D’Angelo and Julie Tosh

Playwright Isabel D'Angelo (right) listens to the read-through of playwright Hannah Newman's (left) play at the first rehearsal for the Young Playwrights Festival.

Playwright Isabel D'Angelo (right) listens to the read-through of playwright Hannah Newman's (left) play at the first rehearsal for the Young Playwrights Festival.

Julie: The clock is ticking as the Young Playwrights Festival approaches. While the director, actors, and crew are picking up the various tools of their work, I’m setting down my pencil and thinking cap for my role as dramaturg. Izzy and I (that’s Isabel D’Angelo, author of the play “Betrayal” and me, Julie Tosh) have been attending rehearsals after spending the last few months digging into her script. Speaking as Izzy’s dramaturg, we’ve had a pretty good time delving into her film noir style drama. So much fun in fact that City Theatre’s Literary Manager and Dramaturg Carlyn Aquiline asked us to talk about our process for working through revisions and notes and also give some hints as to what made us a great playwright-dramaturg match. If you want to know the real inside scoop, I’d say it had a lot to do with the milkshakes we had at our first face-to-face. It was a chance to get to know one another and for me to learn about Izzy’s writing and what drew her to create the dark world of her play.

I was wondering, Izzy, if you wanted to weigh in on that. What were the impulses that sparked the writing of “Betrayal,” and what, besides the milkshakes, helped you feel comfortable in that initial meeting?

Izzy: Well, I think our great relationship can definitely be attributed to the delicious milkshakes at Kings. I’m not really sure what made me feel comfortable at that first meeting. I remember thinking that you seemed really enthused about my play, and I was still getting used to the idea of actually liking what I wrote. That is probably what helped the most, your belief in my play. As for what sparked my writing, I’d say my avid movie watching was a big influence. I have always loved Alfred Hitchcock movies and, over the past few years, have really gotten into Woody Allen flicks. Their elements of suspense and “film noir” style really can be seen throughout my play. 

I’m curious, Julie, what was your first impression of my play? Could you easily identify my inspiration? Did you think I was a completely twisted teenager for writing a play with a plot such as mine?

Julie: You know, I suspected your influences, Izzy. If you’ll remember, it was my first question about your work, and I was glad to hear I was on the right track. As your dramaturg, I then asked myself what could be done to enhance the noir elements while continuing to highlight what made your play theatre and not just a gussied up film script.  I really loved certain elements: the scraping of silverware on plates, the fantasy section, but let’s not give too much away. Twisted teen or not, I really liked that you tapped into ways to communicate your story in new ways. That’s impressive for any playwright!

You got a chance to see your first full rehearsal the other day. What was that like? What would you wish for any teen going through this process?

Izzy: It was a really weird experience seeing my play in action. I started casting the play in my head as soon as I saw the actors, but none of them really looked how I pictured their characters. I never really thought about it; since I didn’t describe any physical characteristics of my characters, people are bound to imagine them differently. It just threw me off when I saw who they cast, but they all play my characters so well. Even though they don’t physically look how I pictured them, they have the type of mannerisms and idiosyncrasies I envisioned. Not to sound cheesy but this is a really awesome experience. I’d hope anyone who gets to take part in this program or in a similar situation doesn’t take it for granted. My advice would be to keep an open mind; seeing how other people interpret your play is half the fun (and the battle).

Julie: Thanks, Izzy, both your honesty and advice would serve any budding playwright.  That’s it for this time around. I’d love to hear your thoughts when you’ve had chance to see the production with an audience.

Izzy’s play “Betrayal” will have its first live audience Wednesday morning (Sept. 30), and she and I will chat again after that. We’re both looking forward to that event and hope to see some of you there.

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