Review by Alex Simmons
Seven short plays by student participants of the New York City Public High School Playwriting Fellowship program premiered on YouTube. The fellowship is an annual program run by the Lucille Lortel Theater Foundation that selects plays by seven high school students, one from each NYC borough plus two more, to be produced at the Lucille Lortel Theater in March.
“Since that was not possible, we did what theater people do so well… We pivoted.” said Kimille Howard, the event’s director. With the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic making live theater all but impossible, the students’ plays were presented by actors with their own filming means.
The plays presented include Circumstances by Marcus Rosariol, The Love I Meant to Say by Helene Quinola, Snowed In by Katherine Sciortino, Caught in a Storm by Rommy Sasson, Divination by Anya Jimenez, The Interview of Wyetta Sims by Zanieka Nembhard and I Have a Dream by Joseph Di Girolamo.
In Circumstances, a twenty-something named Joel has a run in with a former schoolmate in a coffee shop, and faces a moment of self-reflection. The Love I Meant to Say explores a future regulated by an omnipresent “Collective”. The Interview of Wyetta Sims depicts a news report on Wyetta Sims, who survived the horrific loss of her husband and child in a domestic attack.
Dorothea Gloria makes a strong impression in a spoken word sequence centered around the phrase “I Can’t Breath” halfway through the presentation.
The plays continue with Snowed In, where siblings Jason and Jackie get more than they bargained for when they have to clean out their late mother’s remote cabin in the woods. Caught in a Storm has two brothers spending their final night together before one of them is to go off to college. Two sisters reckon with the possibility of an unplanned pregnancy and search for meaning in a chaotic world in Divintation. I Have a Dream brings us into a game show “The Wheel”, where pop-culture characters like Betty Boop and Lisa Simpson compete.
The plays are charming and tackle an array of issues like self-doubt, destructive emotions, post-truth America, sibling strife and more. The Lucille Lortel Foundation provides opportunity for aspiring playwright high schoolers to have their work featured and staged by professional actors, in an era of uncertainty, a look towards the theater’s future writers proves to be as essential as ever.