Pegasus Theatre's 29th Young Playwrights Festival Review - Showcasing the Talent of the Next Generation

 

(left to right) Danielle Rennalls, Brenann Stacker and Erica Pezza in OUR LITTLE SECRET by Myka Buck, directed by Lavina Jadhwani, part of Pegasus Theatre Chicago’s 29th YOUNG PLAYWRIGHTS FESTIVAL. Photo by Emily Schwartz

 

Pegasus Theatre Chicago presents its 29th annual Young Playwrights Festival, featuring three plays written by Chicago high school students. With over 500 entries this year, the long-running and popular festival grants winning students the opportunity to workshop their pieces with professional actors and directors and for those works to be staged and performed for the public.

 

(left to right) Chris Cinereski and Shadana Patterson in A CUP OF SOULS AND ONE GRIM REAPER, PLEASE by Keauna Pierce, directed by Ilesa Duncan, part of Pegasus Theatre Chicago’s 29th YOUNG PLAYWRIGHTS FESTIVAL. Photo by Emily Schwartz

 

Each performance is precluded by a short video introducing the playwright, answering questions like what inspired them to write the play and what their reaction was when they found out they won. These videos add a human element to the productions and help compensate for the absence of playwright bios in the program. The first playwright, Myka Buck, based her play off the personal experiences of her best friend. Titled Our Little Secret, the story is about a teenage basketball player who struggles to come out to her single mother. Although the basic story structure is familiar and perhaps overused, Buck creates quirky, believable teenage characters whose slang and joie de vivre make the story engaging and meaningful. Though this freshness and believability does not quite extend to the older characters (the mother’s dialogue is stiff and at times cliché), Buck has a strong sense of the voice and concerns of her generation and shows great potential for the future.

 

(left to right) Danielle Rennalls and Shadana Patterson in OUR LITTLE SECRET by Myka Buck, directed by Lavina Jadhwani, part of Pegasus Theatre Chicago’s 29th YOUNG PLAYWRIGHTS FESTIVAL. Photo by Emily Schwartz

 

The next playwright, Brian Hayes, wins the audience over immediately with a charming interview in which he describes his reaction to winning as “yo, I won!” His play is a remarkably written satire of high school social groups that features an animated chemistry enthusiast named FeRb seeking to find his place in a highly stratified social environment that plays on the medieval feudal system. Hayes manages to write characters that are somehow both stereotypical and fresh, and FeRb’s sincerity and kindness make him an appealing protagonist. Actor Eric Gerard Walter’s portrayal of the villainous “social king” Bradly is another highlight of the show, and the interplay between the two opposing characters is compelling. The entire play is smartly written and contrasts well with the realism of the piece before.

 

(left to right) Will Kiley, Erica Pezza, Brenann Stacker and Chris Acevedo in THE ADVENTURES OF FeRb by Brian Hayes, directed by Jason Fleece, part of Pegasus Theatre Chicago’s 29th YOUNG PLAYWRIGHTS FESTIVAL. Photo by Emily Schwartz

 

The final play, written by Keauna Pierce, is titled A Cup of Souls and One Grim Reaper, Please and follows Dave, who has only recently gotten the job of Grim Reaper and isn’t so sure that he wants it. Featuring Shadana Patterson as the delightful, Netflix-obsessed Jackie; Danielle Rennalls as a kind, compassionate God; and Will Kiley as a dark, slightly manic Devil, this all-star cast explores the text’s questions of what it means to live, love, and find fulfillment. Pierce's text is crisp and funny, creating three-dimesional characters out of religious and cultural figures.

 

(left to right) Eric G. Walter, Danielle Rennalls, Brenann Stacker and Chris Cinereski in A CUP OF SOULS AND ONE GRIM REAPER, PLEASE by Keauna Pierce, directed by Ilesa Duncan, part of Pegasus Theatre Chicago’s 29th YOUNG PLAYWRIGHTS FESTIVAL. Photo by Emily Schwartz

 

These three plays are the work of highly talented young people. Pegasus Theatre Chicago has created a valuable program that is helping to inspire the next generation of writers and nurture their talent in a professional setting. 

 

(left to right) Brenann Stacker, Chris Acevedo and Eric G. Walter in THE ADVENTURES OF FeRb by Brian Hayes, directed by Jason Fleece, part of Pegasus Theatre Chicago’s 29th YOUNG PLAYWRIGHTS FESTIVAL. Photo by Emily Schwartz

 

Ticket Information

Location: Chicago Dramatists, 1105 W. Chicago Ave., Chicago (theatre entrance around corner at Aberdeen and May Streets).

Dates: Friday, January 8 – Saturday, January 23, 2016

Curtain Times: Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 pm. 

Please note: there will be an added performance on Sunday, January 17 at 3 pm.

Tickets: $30. Seniors $25; students $18. Tickets are currently available at the Pegasus Theatre website or by calling Ovation Tickets at (866) 811-4111.  Teachers can book weekday matinees by calling (773) 878-8864.

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