City Theatre’s Young Playwrights continue to gain accolades!

posted by Christa Boggs, Education Intern

This year City Theatre celebrated its 11th Annual Young Playwrights Festival. This is a tradition that begins its journey in October each year, when City Theatre sends Teaching Artists into classrooms to team-teach playwriting workshops, and culminates the following October with the Young Playwrights Festival. Through this process, students learn to explore writing through improvisation and basic theatre skills and, ultimately, each writes a one-act play. They then have the option to submit their plays for consideration in that year’s Festival. There are 6 selected playwrights, 3 each from Middle School and High School levels. This past year there were over 250 submissions and the quality of writing was beyond superb! After being selected for the Festival, the playwrights spend time with a dramaturg and revise, sit in on casting sessions, become a part of the rehearsal process, and see their show performed in front of live audiences!

Though this year’s Young Playwrights Festival concluded in early October, our Young Playwrights are still earning recognition! One of our 2010 Middle School division playwrights, Surabhi Beriwal, attended Marshall Middle School when she submitted her play and now attends North Allegheny High School. Surabhi is featured in this month’s North Allegheny School District Newsletter: 

City Theatre Produces Original Work by NA Student Surabhi Beriwal

When Mrs. Castner encouraged her middle school students to participate in the Young Playwright’s Contest last year, Surabhi Beriwal was one of the few who took on this extra responsibility.  She certainly did not lack for additional interests and commitments to keep herself busy and challenged.  Surabhi was a strong competitor in the Regional and National Science Bowl competitions as a specialist in human biology.  She was a member of the MMS orchestra and also enjoyed studying traditional Indian dance outside of school through her temple. However, in spite of the fact that she had never done any acting or playwriting before, she came up with an idea she liked and worked with three of her teachers to edit, rewrite, and polish her final draft before submitting it to the contest.


Surabhi’s play, “Ask Alyson,” was one of six winners in the 2010 contest.  Submissions were accepted from students in middle and high school who live anywhere in Western Pennsylvania.  More than 250 plays were submitted.  The winning works were performed in the 11th Annual Young Playwrights Festival at City Theatre’s Lester Hamburg Studio Stage this fall.

“Ask Alyson” is about a girl who has an advice column in her school newspaper. As the play unfolds, the girl’s advice has a significant impact on events. Surabhi’s show has ten characters.  The shows were cast with professional adult actors. The student playwrights were able to participate in the auditions and provide feedback on the casting selections. “It was very nice to be able to attend both the auditions and a number of the rehearsals for the show,” said Surabhi, who is currently a sophomore at NAI. “The director kept asking me if they were doing what I wanted or if things were developing the way I saw them. It was a good experience to be involved, but I also thought their interpretation added so much to what I wrote.”


Surabhi, her family and some of her friends attended the Festival, along with the public audiences.  “I was actually nervous to watch my play with an audience.  It was completely different to hear someone else saying the lines I had written and to hope that the audience would laugh at something I wrote,” she said.  “The show isn’t a comedy, but there were some places where I threw in some jokes.  I was prepared for them to not laugh, but it was nice when they did! I was really excited to hear people’s comments after the show.  They were very encouraging to me.”

Many congratulations to Surabhi for this outstanding recognition!

 To learn more about Surabhi and other winners from this year’s Festival, as well as see some production photos, check out our Facebook Group page: City Theatre Young Playwrights Festival.


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