A Superhero Play by a Superhero Student

Dakota Wenberg is not sure what she wants to be when she grows up. She’s thinking she’ll either be a playwright or an astronaut (or maybe both), but she knows she still has a few years to decide.

Dakota is an eighth grade student at Swanson Middle School, and one of the fifteen talented young writers who will be featured in YPT’s 2011 New Play Festival.

I was thrilled when YPT’s Program Manager Nicole Jost invited me to serve as Dakota’s dramaturge and help her revise and develop her play for production. I remembered reading Dakota’s play, A Jewel of a Date, when I participated in YPT’s New Play Festival Reading Committee in January. Each Reading Committee member was responsible for reading and commenting on dozens of student-written plays from YPT’s In-School Playwriting Program, but Dakota’s play stood out for me. I was so impressed by her imaginative characters and her quick, witty dialogue. I remember sitting in my kitchen laughing, reading Dakota’s opening monologue out loud to my husband, and telling him, “YPT has to produce this play.”

A Jewel of a Date is an unconventional superhero story. The play’s protagonist is Superman’s daughter, Supergirl (also known as Liz). Throughout the play, Liz struggles to balance her life as a teenage girl navigating the new and uncertain territories of dating and high school, with her life as a tough, crime-fighting superhero. As Liz says in her opening monologue, “Girl stuff is hard, superhero stuff is super. So girl superhero stuff is SUPER HARD.” The play is often hilarious, sometimes poignant and always thoroughly entertaining.

I loved working with Dakota to develop her story. Dakota is a busy student. Last month, she was the stage manager for her school’s production of Beauty and Beast. She has swim practice every Tuesday. She sings in an after-school chorus at school and a youth choir at her church. But she still managed to come to each of our dramaturgy meetings completely prepared (with a laptop, multiple copies of her play and all of her YPT paperwork completed and signed) and excited to engage in an enthusiastic, focused dialogue about her play.

Dakota turned in the final draft of her play last week. Over the next month, she will have several opportunities to sit in on New Play Festival rehearsals and give the director and actors feedback as they bring her words to life. I can’t wait to hear what she thinks.

Brigitte
Development Director

A Really Good Day

Creating, working and learning. All part of our daily lives, parts of who we are. Right now, I am working with YPT on a play I wrote, Flatworm’s Courageous Act, which will be produced by YPT and presented to the public at the
New Play Festival, on April 11, 2011, at GALA Hispanic Theatre. My experience with YPT has given me the opportunity to participate in and learn about the processes involved in producing and directing a play to get it from the paper to the stage. It started on a day that I thought couldn’t get any better. In the middle of a snowball fight, my mom gave me a call telling me that my play that I wrote last year was going to be produced and that I was going to help!  It was actually really funny for my friends because I kept jumping up and down and they didn’t know why. After that, my awesome dramaturge named Laurie helped me with thinking of ways to make my play a lot better. Then, on Saturday, February 12, we had a kickoff party with outrageously good cookies where I got to meet some of the other playwrights and learn about their plays. Last, I typed out the final draft of my play for the actors to use at the read-through that I’ll be going to soon. This has been a great experience and I can’t wait to see all of the plays onstage!

Lauren White
YPT Young Playwright
Lafayette Elementary School