Provide a venue where people can sit in on a festival giving the spotlight to the production of original works directed by local playwrights, revel in stories written by teens born after the start of the millennium, and have them vote on their favorite, that’s the formula Joliet’s Billie Limacher Bicentennial Park & Theatre used in its inaugural Emerging Playwrights Festival.
On Jan. 20, three students at schools throughout Joliet and surrounding communities showcased their work to the public. There, each playwright had a cast primarily made up by community youth.
Billie Limacher Bicentennial Park & Theatre hosted the event to showcase local talent and get community youth involved in the arts.
“We’re considering making it an annual event,” said Kimberly Garrett, who serves as a mentor and teaches improv for Billie Limacher Bicentennial Park & Theatre.
Students had two practices to prepare their plays for performance on the stage.
Garrett said they hope to have more and more people participate in the Emerging Playwrights Festival moving forward.
This year, ideas brought to the stage by the playwrights ran the gamut from comedy to drama. All four productions shared one thread in common: conflict.
When asked what inspired their works, the three playwrights shared that personal experience permeates throughout their pieces.
In Joliet Catholic Academy sophomore Zane Carmine’s “Correspondence,” a murder mystery ensues. He said it was challenging to cap it off at 10 minutes, but it works fine. “Correspondence” was awarded fan-favorite honors by festival attendees
His other play, “Posthumously,” at its core is about bringing a postman back from the dead to explain how he dies. He said there’s a lot more to it, and it gets a little strange.
Carmine said his sense of humor permeates throughout the latter piece in particular.
“I wrote all of it myself, and I play the main character myself,” he said.
In Plainfield Central High School sophomore Sarah Bailey’s “Best (Pen) Pals,” she tells the story of a girl who has her best friend/pen pal and the most popular guy at school fighting over her affection.
“The idea of the pen pal, for me, it started out as an idea for a book I was going to write,” she said. “I turned into a script, and it just happened.”
Bailey had never previously written or directed a play to that point. She has been involved in theater programs at school and Billie Limacher Bicentennial Park & Theatre the last four to five years.
Bailey said she is pleased to see the way her play has come to life on stage.
“My play is kind of my baby at this point, and I am one of the actors in it, so it’s a very cool experience,” she said. “I’m liking how it’s come along.”
Bailey said she put a lot of herself into how she is choosing to tell her story.
“I’m always the type of person cracking puns and jokes everywhere, so I felt I couldn’t write a serious script,” she said. “I think everything I’ve written has a funny element to it, but there are some themes that could happen in every high-schoolers’ [life,] but I think I deal with it in a funny way.”
In Minooka Junior High School eighth-grade student Briana Hamilton’s “Miss Jolly-et 2018,” she tells the story of a local beauty pageant.
“I focused more on the comedy side than the serious side, … and I just like comedy,” she said. “It just comes to me.”
Hamilton said she has always been interested in putting on shows, but directing a piece for a festival served as a first for her.
“I just know that I would put this [experience] as something I’ve done [on a resume] because I just really want to do this later in life, too,” she said.
Votes were counted to determine the audience’s fan-favorite piece. At the conclusion of the Emerging Playwrights Festival, Carmine received top honors.