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The Playwrights Festival

By Hannah ’25

The Playwrights Festival at Harvard-Westlake is an annual tradition at the Upper School Performing Arts Department where students have the opportunity to write, direct, act, and so much more! 

Taking place every Spring, the Playwrights Festival showcases about 10-20 student written shows that are all about 20 minutes each. The writing process begins in September, when students submit their first drafts and work with adult mentors to fine tune their scripts. Last year, students wrote plays about dystopian universes, superheroes, friendships turned to romance, and we even had a satire musical about Prefect Council. 

Even though the process technically starts very early in the year, the shows start coming to life in March. Student directors are in charge of casting, managing rehearsals, and bringing their vision of the show to life. For me, the cool part is that writers aren’t super involved in the staging or design process, so the finished product ends up being a blend of different ideas and decisions. A few of our shows are even site-specific, which means they take place other than our normal theater. Last year, one of our shows was even in the historic St. Saviour’s Chapel on campus! 

After auditions, directors work with each other to cast actors in their shows and rehearsals start! The process is super collaborative, with lots of contribution from everyone in the cast. Another great part about the Playwrights Festival is that it’s very low stakes if you’re interested in theater but don’t want a huge time commitment. Since casts are small, rehearsal schedules are very flexible and many fewer lines to memorize. 

After all the shows are staged and everyone is rehearsed, we start tech rehearsals, which is with all the sound and lighting effects. Directors decide what colors they want the stage to be at which times, what intro and outro music to use, and many more very cool things that are all up to the director. As the Stage Manager, my role was to call these light and sound cues so that they happen at the right time during the show. Which brings me to my next point: even if you don’t want to be an actor or direct a show, you can still be involved behind the scenes! 

However, what I love most about the Playwrights Festival is how connected you become with other students in the cast, like in every other show. Especially since lots of people who aren’t normally part of HW shows decide to participate, it’s a great way to get to know new people that you might not have had the chance to meet otherwise! The Playwrights Festival is just one of the unique offerings for performing arts that we have at HW, but definitely one of my favorites.

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Tags: Last modified: December 5, 2023