By: Kaya Trefz
As a senior in the Philadelphia school district one of my requirements to graduate was the Senior Exit Project, a year long research project that emulated what a thesis may be for a college senior. For my Senior Exit, I delved into women’s presence within various art forms and the effects that representation has. When deciding where to complete my community service I initially thought of the Philadelphia Young Playwrights as they offer a platform for young playwrights to expand their technique as writers, work with others within their community, and provide resources that one may not have otherwise, such as their festivals showcasing plays and monologues written by students. While PYP doesn’t work just with women, the organization was founded by Adele Magner in 1986 and houses many in staff teaching artists who are women. It also provides a safe place for anyone, no matter gender, to explore their art and grow in their craft. In the 2018-2019 school year I had participated in their resident playwright program and felt very safe and grateful to be able to work with both the mentors and fellow playwrights in the program.
Originally, before the world was momentarily shut down, I was set to assist with the Saturday Playwriting retreat, for writers ages twelve to eighteen that would have taken place on March 28th. Leading up the retreat I would have worked in the office from March 23 to April 1st. Due to the online limitations I instead was invited to assist in the virtual monologue festival. Under the guidance of Brittany Brewer, the Associate Director of Education and Program Services, I helped evaluate the submissions of the festival and participated in the Final Committee that decided which selections would be featured in the digital festival. I recorded and edited a video describing tools for writing and editing monologues and was able to use skills I learned at PYP to help others. On May 13th I participated in a zoom committee to decide which monologues would be featured as well as given an honorable mention.It was very interesting to see the eclectic group of pieces with varying themes, characters, and storylines. Going from a collection of works and being able to have a say in which monologues would be showcased was most exciting to me. Specifically, I was also able to advocate for and against monologues on the basis of representation and what each gave a message to the audience. This along with getting to see how a Final Committee operates were most exciting about the process. From this experience, I learned about the resilience of art, especially in the structure of a national pandemic. Art such as playwriting offers an escape from the current situation and a form of entertainment during days that seem to be never ending. Joining the zoom call I was a bit nervous since I only knew one member of the committee from the Resident Playwright program I attended last year at PYP. However, each adult in the call treated me with nothing but respect. When I explained my thought process for ranking and choosing monologues, taking into account the representation of themes, age of authors, and the message each could spread, each listened to me and treated my opinion as good as any other. I was initially afraid to speak feeling not as qualified as those who worked at PYP and who are present in the Philadelphia theater scene as actors and playwrights, but a lot of my decisions for winners were taken into account and chosen. Not only did I learn how welcoming the playwriting community is, but it was very refreshing to have adults value and appreciate my thoughts and opinions.
As someone who wants to go into an artistic field, PYP has provided me with a safe place with encouraging adults. Initially, I went to see Brittany in September to discuss my college portfolio and help decide which pieces were best for my applications. She sat with me for over an hour and broke down the strengths and weaknesses of my college essay, why some pieces were stronger than others, and ultimately provided a place where I felt seen.When she heard about my Senior Exit Project and my interest in PYP, she offered to help me with my community service. Sadly the virus sidetracked my interactions at a physical level, but again PYP provided me with a safe space to discuss with other creatives, this time about monologues. While I don’t know if I’ll venture into playwriting in a team setting, this reminded me of the importance of interactions and safe environments. In the future, if I am lucky enough to make more films or any other projects I’ll be focused on creating a similar space so that everyone not only feels heard and valued but is excited about the work they are creating.
Congratulations to those who submitted to the festival! During times like these things can seem bleak and hopeless, but each submission gave me hope for the future. Each monologue being showcased in the festival both as winners and honorable mentions were carefully chosen based on story, character, and technique ranging from comedy to drama. I was very excited to read these selections and have a voice in seeing them move on to a performance level. Thank you to everyone who submitted and trusted us with your art!