Young Playwrights Project brings student writing to life


Lexi Goldstein

Professional actors David Lee Huynh, Michelle Skinner, Nicole Javier and Sean Okuniewicz perform junior Aideen Delahunt’s one-act “Theodore” over Zoom.

Lexi Goldstein, Editor-In-Chief

On Monday, March 29, Burlingame’s advanced drama students watched as their scripts came to life over Zoom through the help and guidance of the Young Playwrights Project, an opportunity presented every other year and funded by the Burlingame High School Parents’ Group. The project is run by Tony-Award-winning professional theatre, TheatreWorks, and is an educational collaborative for young writers and professional actors and directors. 

When the advanced drama students returned to classes after winter break, they were introduced to teaching artist and playwright-in-residence Sinjin Jones from TheatreWorks and began brainstorming 10-minute one-acts of their own. For the first month, Jones focused on teaching through worksheets, writing challenges, formatting lessons and by sharing some of his own insight into the playwriting process. Students spent the next month writing their drafts and receiving feedback. 

“My process was in the first draft — I did it really fast — I just put all the information out there. For me, it was more of editing and like adding some humor and varying sad and angry bits,” junior Saanvi Jain said.

Criticism accompanies all forms of art, and though expected, it was not always easy for the playwrights to hear. For junior Kate Christian, the editing process was a helpful, albeit disheartening, experience.

“I learned that it’s not bad to take critiques. I feel like I can be one of those people who is very prideful in my own work, and I sometimes don’t really like taking criticism,” Christian said. “But through this, you know, I got a lot of critiques on the work; that’s why it came out pretty good.”


By the end of the writing process, eight students’ plays were selected for performance based on merit and diversity of genres. The writers include Kate Christian, Aideen Delahunt, Jessica Fleming, Saanvi Jain, Julia Li, Megan Sullivan, Lila Sutherlin and Helen Zhan. One-acts not chosen are still eligible for use in the advanced drama class’s final project in which the students perform their peers’ scripts. 

On the day of the performance, directors Emily Jackson and Francisco Rodriguez and the actors from TheatreWorks met with the student playwrights to communicate character intricacies and the writer’s artistic vision. 

“We only work[ed] together for one day, and that was [March 29], and I gave them my script. They did a run-through, they asked me a few like clarifying questions, and then they did it through themselves again,” Christian said. 


Following the rehearsal, curtains — in reality, a blackened Zoom icon playing mellow music — opened to Sutherlin’s one-act “Cinnamon Chai Lattes on Tuesdays,” which showcased a series of coffee-shop meet-cute interactions between a barista and customer with their brains interjecting with intrusive commentary. Next, Jain’s piece, “The Fountain,” followed the story of two women finding platonic love for each other after their initial pursuits of romantic connection, all discretely orchestrated by an enchanted fountain, failed. “The Flawless Girl” by Zhan, which was performed vocally, without video, discussed an artificial intelligence model who goes through a series of traumatic events. “An Interesting Discovery” by Fleming humorously followed an encounter between a werewolf couple and their new, normal neighbor who does not pick up on hints of their peculiarity until they begin transitioning into their beastly forms. In Christian’s creative one-act “Fugitive Dreamscape,” two characters find themselves in a dream through “astral manifestation,” one a cosmic agent and one a fugitive, and they exchange witty banter while trying to figure each other out because the all-important master key — which can unlock any dream in the cosmic world — is missing. The abstract concept of the play came to Christian in an unsurprising way: a dream.


“I had this really surreal dream, and I made up this thing that I called astral manifestation, which sounds as complicated as it is,” Christian said. 


Next, Sullivan’s “Rocky”-inspired “I’m In Your Corner” explored both grief and boxing in the 10-minute slot. “Theodore” by Delahunt humorously takes on the murder suspect trope with a unique and questionable detective named Theodore. Closing out the night, “Coffee” by Li followed another coffee shop romance with plenty of Shakespeare references. 

The young playwrights appreciated the unique opportunity to pursue their passion for theater and have their work seen by a large audience. After imagining what their plays would be like for months, the writers were moved by the professional performances. 


“[The actors] really brought it to life, and that was just really fun to see,” Jain said.