The theatre playfest winners win big


Nicole Rooney

ALWAYS IMPROVING: Senior Lindsay Dahl gives feedback to freshman Gibson Gelfer after their first run through of Dahl’s play at after school practice. With things like set changes and other factors, there are a lot of variables that go into running a smooth play.

Nicole Rooney, Entertainment Editor

Building a play from the ground up, senior students Kaelie Douglass and Lindsay Dahl both qualified and won in the Texas Educational Theatre Associations Playfest.

The Texas Educational Theatre Associations Playfest is a playwriting competition. This competition was created to encourage high  school and college students to create a piece special to them and submit it to be performed.

“I base it loosely off of me and my sister,” Dahl said. “It’s about two sisters, Penelope and Winnie, and they’re playing. They have to play together but one is more into Barbies and all this sort of more girly-type things, going to the mall and everything while the other is more into superheroes and spies and basically it goes between them kind of bickering and having to play together.”

When creating a piece, it is more than just the writing itself. Every detail whether it comes to stage lighting or costumes is a variable in how the piece turns out.

“I use a lot of sound and lighting my show to capture the ocean sounds and blue waves that haunt Aiela after this experience as well as other theatrical elements to create a disjointed and haunted feeling in the house,” Douglass said. “It follows her relationship with God, her mother, the various colors of grief, and the survivor’s guilt over the event.”

There are a lot of different variables that go into creating a story for this competition. Bringing all of them together is what turns the play into something special.

“Playwriting is important to me because I think it’s always important to tell our own stories and create our own work,” Douglass said. “Theatre is a magical way to bring people together of different backgrounds to share stories. Being a part of the crafting of those stories is such a beautiful part of that process.”

Both Dahl and Douglass have been doing theatre throughout their high school experience which has resulted in a close connection with their teacher Betsy Cornwell.

“I knew both Kaelie and Lindsay had good plays when they began working on their assignments in our playwriting unit in the second semester of Theatre 3,” Cornwell said. “The students in the class and I encouraged them to keep working on the project.  I was so excited about it that I contracted with a New York actress/playwright to do workshops with them over the summer.  Their final presentations were read on zoom with New York actors. It was so exciting to hear their words spoken by professionals, and I knew they were winners.”

The process of actually developing the play itself is very time consuming as well as rewarding.

“Working on this play, it was very interesting. It was like a weekly thing. First, I’m doing the playwriting class, then I’m working on it with a professional playwright in New York and it’s really cool, but also a little nerve wracking because I’m showing my work and I’m just like, I hope he likes it, and having to read it aloud as well,” Dahl said. “It’s interesting having to write as little kids too, and like trying to think of what a little kid would say in a certain situation when I’m 17 years old and haven’t been seven and 10 years.”

Another unique thing about theatre is that every performance is different. Not one play is ever the same, no matter how many times it is performed.

“There is something so beautiful and magical about watching a story unravel in front of your own eyes. You are essentially being able to witness people “living” in front of you,” Douglass said. “You aren’t watching someone act on a screen that has been cropped and filmed and edited multiple times, instead, you are watching people bring a story to life in real time, and every performance has the potential to bring something new and it’s exciting.”

Theatre brings people together in many different ways, because of the connection that they have when acting and writing.

“Theater. Well, there’s lots of things I enjoy about theater. I enjoy performing because I’ve made a lot of my very close friends in theater,” Dahl said. “And so, I enjoy being able to work with them and put on shows for other people. Having friends and family come and see them and just being able to have fun and entertain.”

One thing that halted theatre in the past year was COVID-19, making it hard to have a connection on and off the stage.

“Because doing it online, you lose that, and that’s a lot of why I love theater but online it’s really hard to do that and connect,” Dahl said. “So, once we finally started going back, in the spring semester last year, there was a very large difference in being online where we’re able to see each other in person, go to rehearsals, and we’re able to be with each other while online, you just don’t have that same connection.”

Theatre has helped students not just gain unique experiences, but strong life lessons and boost their confidence.

“I learned the lesson of ‘you are enough’. Of course you are imperfect, we all are. We all have many flaws. We will make a lot of mistakes. But there is a beauty in imperfection,” Douglass said. “I have learned to be kinder to myself in regards to wherever I am at in my acting or writing journey. I have learned that you cannot be too critical of yourself, as it only encourages self-doubt and stunts your growth.”