EACH YEAR, the Next Generation Works program celebrates original student writing by and for Thespians. The 2020 winning plays, films, and musical will premiere in recorded excerpts on Friday, June 26, on the final day of the Virtual International Thespian Festival, followed by a live talkback with the authors.

Following is a sneak peek of those works, described by the authors in their words, with insight about the inspiration behind their creations.


Sunday Afternoon Gin
By Josie Palmarini
Troupe 3950, School for Creative and Performing Arts, Cincinnati, Ohio

Sunday Afternoon Gin is a park bench play about four women playing their weekly card game of gin. Tensions rise after one of the women reveals there is a rumor going around that a man in their neighborhood is having an affair.

It was loosely inspired by Samuel Beckett’s play Come and Go, and it explores the societal expectations placed upon women and how they affect the relationships women form with each other.

Grace Engstrom, Abby Shamrell, Harper Clark, and Anna Marie Myatt in Sunday Afternoon Gin.
Grace Engstrom, Abby Shamrell, Harper Clark, and Anna Marie Myatt in Sunday Afternoon Gin.

Love Is Blind: A Spoken Word Poetry Play
By Aiko Lozar
Troupe 1519, Carlsbad (California) High School

In an oppressive dystopian society where love is criminal, a chip embedded in each person’s brain only allows them to see color when they meet their predetermined soulmate. A play-it-by-the-rules teenage girl, Amber, falls in love with her best friend, Blake Colby. When their love becomes too evident (both to themselves and the government), they must weigh the importance of real, human emotion before the government intervenes in a not-so-pretty-way.

I was in the car one night in September 2017. I wrote down one line: “What’s black and white and red all over? Love is red.” I wrote Amber’s monologue — her ode to colors and what they symbolize — when I realized color was too important to be taken away. I started to envision a world where color can only be achieved when someone falls in love. What if someone never falls in love? Could someone feel color? I was so inspired by these questions that I crafted a character around color: Amber. Her name, her life, her ideals were all inspired by this common human experience. But what if she fell in love with someone dull and colorless? So was born Blake Colby (Blake = Black, Colby = Coal).

I also was inspired by the idea of the ensemble. The sound of everyone talking and contributing to a story while building a world with their movement draws on Greek theatre and what I hope to be the future of plays. Finally, the spoken-word aspect of the script was inspired by my brother Quinn, who’s a spoken-word poet, and my desire to modernize poetic theatre for the general public. It took nearly three years for the script to get where it is today, and I am so grateful for everyone who has helped me on this journey.

The cast of Love Is Blind: A Spoken Word Poetry Play
The cast of Love Is Blind: A Spoken Word Poetry Play.

Consequential Strangers
By Kea Kamiya
Troupe 7937, State College of Florida Collegiate School, Bradenton, Florida

My play, Consequential Strangers, is a comedic piece that explores fulfillment and gender roles through an unlikely encounter in a men’s bathroom. James is a single father struggling to change his daughter’s diaper in a bathroom without a changing table. Rob steps in to help, and an unlikely conversation ensues. Faced with unconventional circumstances, James and Rob discuss fulfillment, hurt, and expectations — all while trying to change a diaper.

I was inspired to write this show because I saw an article online about how men’s public restrooms often don’t have changing tables, an issue that poses a problem for fathers. I thought a man in a bathroom, struggling to change his daughter’s diaper, presented an interesting setting and unique dilemma. Additionally, I was inspired by the phrase “consequential strangers.” I was introduced to this phrase during a sociology class. Consequential strangers is a term referring to someone in your life you don’t know personally but would notice if they were gone. I thought this sociological idea was extremely interesting and wanted to work it into a play. I love writing one-setting plays with just a few characters, and all these factors inspired me to write Consequential Strangers.

Brody Ogle and Parker Medley in Consequential Strangers.

The Firefly Hour
By Taylor Lockhart
Troupe 1794, Floyd Central High School, Floyds Knobs, Indiana

The Firefly Hour is a play about two friends hanging out on a summer night as they learn to accept change and the constantly shifting directions of life together. They find that, even in our darkest moments, there is always a little light.

The Firefly Hour began as a bunch of ideas and little inspirations. I had been obsessed with making a show that plays with light in a fun and interesting way. I still don’t think I’ve made the final example of what that will be, but The Firefly Hour is a pretty good first attempt.

You know you should never base a story on a gimmick, but sometimes it can be fun. Just make it symbolic, and no one will ever notice you just wanted a show with cool light-up stuff. I based a lot of the play on my internal thoughts facing the end of my junior year, as I sat outside watching fireflies. I think the push to bring all these concepts together was probably the fact that Owl City’s “Fireflies” was making a comeback, and I had that song stuck in my head for probably a good year. The play isn’t based on the lyrics of that song, but it surprisingly matches up really well.

Taylor Lockhart (bottom right) and the cast of The Firefly Hour.


And So It Goes
By Ben Susskind
Troupe 6826, Orange County School of the Arts, Santa Ana, California

And So It Goes is a cross between a farcical satire and a romantic comedy, set in the eccentric locale of a small news studio in Cincinnati. Ollie, the cameraman, feels he goes unrecognized by the rest of the staff, especially the producer, Rick. When Rick brings his daughter Annabelle in for an on-air interview, she makes a connection with Ollie. After relentless urging from Ollie’s wingman, Dominic, Ollie decides to pursue this spark further, and it proves to be for his own good, ultimately leading him to the recognition he deserves.

As a musical theatre playwright-composer, I tend to work music first, then lyrics. For And So It Goes, I actually wrote the song “March 25th” as a stand-alone song, but I fell in love with the character who sings it and what his story might be, which catapulted me into expanding the idea into a full musical.

I try to push myself to write something that doesn’t follow all the typical tropes of contemporary musical theatre, and I felt a unique setting like a news studio would allow me to explore my ideas and experiment with story structure in ways I haven’t worked before. I tend to write realistic and historical fiction, which lends itself to dramatic and heavy material, so with And So It Goes, I wanted to work on something lighter, something with more lilt and humor.

The cast of And So It Goes.
The cast of And So It Goes.


How to Have a Successful Quarantine in Six Easy Steps (2nd Edition)
By Lauren Ferro
Troupe 5986, Montgomery (Texas) High School

How to Have a Successful Quarantine in Six Easy Steps (2nd Edition) is a step-by-step guide to how to succeed during quarantine. But if you look closer, a love story unfolds.

I got a lot of inspiration from classic television infomercials, but I also got inspiration from shows such as Noises Off and The Play That Goes Wrong. The character is trying to put up a show — in this case, an infomercial — but in reality, the true show is what goes on behind the scenes.

Lauren Ferro in How to Have a Successful Quarantine in Six Easy Steps (2nd Edition).
Lauren Ferro in How to Have a Successful Quarantine in Six Easy Steps (2nd Edition).

The Breakup
By Paige Fahrenkrug
Troupe 1451, Waukee (Iowa) High School

Trapped in a cluttered garage that probably smells like cat pee, a teenage boy named Gary is forced by two masked strangers to make a decision that will change his life — just not in the way he expected. His choice involves a blue plastic water gun, a blindfold, his little brother, and one pissed-off girlfriend.

I find it extremely difficult to make choices. I could spend hours selecting the ice cream flavor I want, I switch my hairstyle often, and I take a ridiculous amount of time choosing my outfits each day. Needless to say, I’m absolutely terrified of making dramatic, life-changing choices. “Life-or-death” decisions and breakups are at the top of that list for me. So, I translated both those fears into a wacky, comedic short film.

Writing a character like Gary who is in such an unusual, outrageous position distracted me from stressing over my choices. The inspiration for this film came from my desire to make people laugh, using a topic that would normally scare me.

AJ Mortale in The Breakup.
AJ Mortale in The Breakup.

Thespian Playworks is sponsored by Concord Theatricals. Thespian Musicalworks is sponsored by TRW.

Learn more about the Virtual International Thespian Festival online.

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