Student-written play performed at Pegasus Theatre

By Marta Malinowski

Having the play she wrote brought to life by professional actors and directors was something Clare McKitterick, Div. 452, did not think she had a realistic chance of seeing.

McKitterick was one of the high school students who submitted plays into competition for the Chicago Young Playwrights Festival in the Pegasus Theatre.

McKitterick decided to enter into the Young Playwright’s Festival just to see if anything could come of it. Not long after, she received an email and phone call with the news that her play had been chosen as a winner.

“It was pretty hard to believe at first. I honestly had no idea that I could ever have won, so it was a huge surprise when I did,” McKitterick said.

She and two other winners were awarded $500 and had their plays performed as professional productions in January.

McKitterick’s play was about a support group for fairy tale characters, led by Glinda, the Good witch from The Wizard of Oz. Her “patients” are deeply disturbed by events from their pasts, each associated with something that happened in the fairy tale for which they are known. The characters include Pinocchio: an ex-puppet who wants to remain a boy by only telling the truth no matter how painful to others, Snow White: a girl whose terror of poisoned apples leads her to bad behavior, Captain Hook: a pirate with a strong hatred of children, and Big Bad Wolf: a beast with a surprising alibi.

McKitterick’s inspiration for the idea behind her play came from her long love for fairy tales.

“I thought it was interesting to explore what happens after the fairy tale ending. It’s something you don’t get to see, so I decided to explore it,” McKitterick said.

Her Creative Writing teacher, Ms. Meacham, said McKitterick’s play truly deserved winning and being produced for the stage.

“It was a really creative and  fun topic of taking fairy tales out of context and playing with what is seen as their stereotypes,” Meacham said.

Meacham said McKitterick’s play was a good comedy, but also had a great twist to it.

“The writing of it is more complex and deeper than it appears. You think it’s going to be simple, but then it hits you,” Meacham said.

The production ran for a month but required a whole month of rehearsals and over a month of writing. This being her first time writing a play, McKitterick was not used to the lengthy process. One of the biggest struggles she had was getting her characters “flushed out.” Meacham helped her add all the pieces together, advising her how to make the story flow better. McKitterick credits Meacham with helping her through every step of the play writing process.

“She gave me advice about what I was doing right or wrong and how to make it better,” McKitterick said.

Meacham initially assigned her class to write a one act play during the second quarter of last school year. McKitterick’s play was first performed during Lane’s Play Fest and later submitted for the Chicago Young Playwrights Festival. From the start Meacham saw that McKitterick was going to find success with the piece.

“It’s hard to put into words,” Meacham said. “She has such a great sense of space with clear character motivation and conflict. The play allows the audience to feel smart.”

McKitterick was able to watch rehearsals of her play being directed by professional director Lavina Jadhwani. This experience helped her learn more about  the relationship between actors and director.

McKitterick was not just an observer in this process. She was actively involved in talking with actors and director to ensure the play adhered to her vision of what it should be. She helped in choosing cast members after watching auditions, she coordinated scene direction, and voiced her opinion on several other important details of the production.

After all the hard work, she was able to share the results with her family who came to see her play.

“It was nerve-wracking to watch my family’s and the other people in the theater’s reaction, but it was also really exciting,” McKitterick said.

McKitterick admits to being afraid that people would not find her play funny or would not understand the comedic effects she intended. When watching the play being performed for an audience in the Pegasus Theatre the first time, she was happily surprised with how many people were laughing and enjoying it.

Looking back on the play writing experience, McKitterick is proud of her accomplishment.

“I am really honored to have won, especially after having absolutely no experience in the field of play writing,” McKitterick said.

To any writers thinking about submitting their plays next year, McKitterick believes success comes from writing what you know.

“Just write about something you love and care about and it will all feel more real. You need to make [the audience] feel what you’re writing,” McKitterick said.

McKitterick says this experience has worked to reinforce her goal of pursuing writing in her future.

“She is such a gifted writer. I have no doubt that she will be successful,” Meacham said.