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Students display the write stuff

GLENWOOD SPRINGS – Aspiring playwrights often wait years before seeing their written words presented on stage in front of a live audience. Some go a lifetime without seeing their work transformed to a live production.

But first-time teenage playwrights Sara Corcoran and Audrey Schaiberger only have to wait until Sunday, Jan. 19, before their award-winning plays, written just last fall, premiere at the New Space Theater at CMC’s Spring Valley campus.

Their plays took first place at the 2002 Aspiring Playwrights Ten Minute Play Competition, a regional contest open to Roaring Fork Valley public school students and students in Colorado Mountain College’s district.



The competition is the brainchild of Julia Hansen, founder of Theater Masters, a year-old, Aspen-based nonprofit performing arts organization. Hansen developed the contest to give young playwrights an opportunity to create work and see their winning plays actually performed.

“We knew it wasn’t appropriate or realistic to expect young playwrights to produce full-length plays,” she explained. “But a 10-minute play competition allows contestants to enter a shorter work and get a feel for writing a play on a smaller scale.”



A Mecca for young playwrights

There must be something in the water – or in the drinking fountains at Glenwood Springs High School – that produces award-winning young playwrights.

Glenwood Springs’ young playwrights swept the competition. More than 40 plays from Aspen to Rifle were submitted to the contest, but the three winning plays all came from GSHS students.

Beside the first-place winners, GSHS freshman Mandy Frale won an honorable mention for her play, “The Machine.”

“These plays offer very sophisticated life lessons,” Theater Masters’ Hansen said.

Corcoran’s play, “Something to Tell,” is about a married couple who catch each other keeping secrets.

Schaiberger’s “Old Dishes,” is about an old woman’s treasures being sold to new owners at a yard sale.

Hansen credits GSHS staff and teachers for making the play competition so successful there. She said Chip Wells, a former teacher at the school, and a working professional actor and thespian, was instrumental.

“Chip was wonderful in administrating the project,” Hansen said. “She helped get the information out to the writing and drama classes at the school, and she presented playwrighting workshops to prepare the students for writing.”

Chip’s husband, GSHS principal Mike Wells, also played a key role, Hansen said.

“He’s the kind of person you want for your children to have as their principal,” she said. “He was receptive to our program, and encouraging to the teachers and students to get involved. I was thrilled to collaborate with him on the competition.”

Hansen also had high praise for English teacher Laura Hardman, who participated in the contest, and for GSHS alumnae and creative writing teacher Candace Nadon and drama teacher Gayla Rowe-Gaddis.

“Chip Wells proposed the idea to my class with her workshop,” Nadon said. “My experience in writing is mostly in short story and poetry. I don’t have much experience in playwrighting, so the contest was a great experience for my students. And having Sarah and Audrey win the competition is wonderful feedback for our school.”

Both Nadon and Rowe-Gaddis said working with Hansen, who’s from New York and was involved in the Drama League there before moving to Aspen three years ago, gave their students a new perspective.

“Sometimes, kids living in areas like ours don’t get exposed to the same kinds of things as kids in the city do,” Rowe-Gaddis said. “But this valley is so culturally rich, and programs like Theater Masters’ playwrighting competition add so much to our overall educational opportunities.”

A career in the thee-ah-tah?

For both Sarah Corcoran, a senior, and Audrey Schaiberger, a junior, winning the competition was a surprise.

“I was sleeping when my mom came in and told me I had won the playwrighting contest,” Corcoran said. “I said, `What? I didn’t win!’ It took a while for it to sink in.”

Schaiberger said she was doing some homework when the phone rang.

“It was Julia Hansen, telling me I had won,” she said. “At first, I could hardly register the news.”

Although the contest was originally designed to award only one first prize, judges deemed the two plays equally worthy. Five judges initially read the plays and narrowed the field down to seven from 45. Final readers were William Luce, a nationally known playwright, and Edward Morgan, the assistant artistic director of the Milwaukee Repertory Theatre.

“I am very happy Audrey and I got to share in the excitement of winning the contest,” said Corcoran.

The girls will receive the services of Aspen dramaturg Marisa Post, who will help the writers make their plays stage ready, and will receive feedback from Luce. In addition, the playwrights will each receive a $250 prize, and their plays will be performed by professional actors on Jan. 19.

Morgan will direct the works, though Hansen said the playwrights will have the final say on how the plays are presented.

Neither of the girls is sure if they are headed for careers as playwrights.

Corcoran is choosing colleges, and Schaiberger is looking forward to one more year of high school before deciding where she’ll go to school. Both girls are interested in theater arts and writing, but are keeping their options open.

In the meantime, their two plays, on the recommendation of Hansen, have been accepted as submissions to the prestigious Young Playwrights Festival in New York, and are the only entries from Colorado.

“I dream of a Colorado student being chosen one day as a finalist,” Hansen said.

Contact Carrie Click: 945-8515, ext 518

cclick@postindependent.com


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