In the latest installment of our occasional conversations with Fort Worth newsmakers, Tim Long, executive director of Circle Theatre, spoke with arts and culture editor Marcheta Fornoff about the High School Playwriting Project.
This conversation has been edited for length and clarity. For the unabridged version, please listen to the audio file attached to this article.
Marcheta Fornoff: So, Tim, tell me a little bit about the 2022 High School Playwriting Project.
Tim Long: We are so excited about it. It’s an annual project that’s been going on since 1996. It was founded by the theater’s founder, Rose Pearson, and Larry Boston at Western Hills High School. They came together and decided they wanted to have an opportunity for students to write scripts and then see those scripts performed by professional actors. And it’s been going on since then.
Last year was the first time we did it outdoors because of COVID. We had it on the campus of Texas Wesleyan University. It was a smash success, and we decided to repeat it. We decided to do it a little later in the evening. This year we’re going to start at 7 p.m. We’re going to have a food truck out there and make it somewhat of a picnic. And just a lovely evening for the readings.
The finalists are from schools all over the Metroplex. We’re super excited about it, and it is happening on Sunday, June the 26.
Fornoff: Tell me a little bit more about the students who submitted.
Long: We’re actually super blessed this year. We have some returning finalists and semifinalists. Elle Chavis was a semifinalist last year from The Hockaday School in Dallas, and she’s a finalist this year. And Caleb Jackson is a returning finalist. He’s from FWAFA (Fort Worth Academy of Fine Arts). And then Maya (Michalski) is another returning (student). She’s a semifinalist from last year (and) is another semifinalist (this year). We’re very excited that people are continuing to submit scripts.
Fornoff: Is this open to all students in the Metroplex? I noticed you have some from Dallas. You have some from Fort Worth, some from Southlake.
Long: Yes. When COVID hit, we decided to open it up to the Metroplex. We had just kind of kept it to Fort Worth schools. But when we realized that we were doing an online reading series for 2020, we decided we would just have any school participate, and we had good submissions from all over the Metroplex since we decided just to keep it that way. And now we are opening it up and trying to grow the program and get more students and schools involved.
Fornoff: What has been the experience of students seeing their work performed by professional artists?
Long: It’s such a joy to see their reactions. It’s more fun to watch the playwrights as they watch their play being read than I think actually the play being read itself. They get to experience it in a way that it’s natural for a playwright. You want to have your words read in front of an audience and by professional actors. It’s such a different experience. Sometimes they’re overwhelmed and sometimes they’re ecstatic. But it’s always an interesting experience. We’ve always gotten really good, positive feedback from the students.
Fornoff: In addition to having their work read aloud and performed they also have a couple of prizes that they’re eligible for, correct?
If you go…
Date: June 26
Location: Texas Wesleyan University
1201 Wesleyan St
Fort Worth, TX 76105
Time: 7:00 p.m.
Tickets: The event is free if you use promo code HSPP
Long: Yes. They receive a trophy as well as a cash stipend. They also get tickets to Circle and other theaters within the Metroplex.
Fornoff: Is there anything else that I didn’t ask you about that you wanted to mention or you think it’s important to know?
Long: No, just that we’re ecstatic to do it on the campus of Texas Wesleyan University. They’ve been such a partner with us, particularly Connie Whitt-Lambert. It’s just been such a good experience with them and (we’re) super excited to have it again on their campus and get ready for next year’s entries. We’re going to make a push for next year. The more entries we get, the bigger the program will be.
Fornoff: Right. And the audience can buy tickets, (but) there’s a promo code so it’s actually free.
Long: Yes. We have the promo code. Our ticketing software won’t allow us to offer a free ticket the way it’s set up, so you need to use the code HSP to get your free tickets.
It’s open to anyone in the Metroplex. Everybody’s invited. We’re trying to track just how many people are coming for logistical purposes, but reservations are free and it’s open to anyone — friends and family of the playwrights and just someone who wants to come.
Marcheta Fornoff covers the arts for the Fort Worth Report. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter. At the Fort Worth Report, news decisions are made independently of our board members and financial supporters. Read more about our editorial independence policy here.