Teen Playwrights in the Spotlight at Alley's HYPE

Does Houston have in its ranks a young Sam Shepard? Or a Suzan-Lori Parks? The Alley Theatre's Houston Young Playwrights Exchange (HYPE) is determined to scout one out. Tonight, after months of planning, evaluation and work-shopping, the six teenage writers selected by the annual outreach program will have their moment on the Alley's big stage and hear their words spoken by professional actors. They're probably all emotional wrecks right now.

Sean Judge, a member of "Houston's Professional Theater Community," was one of several professionals chosen to mentor a playwright and help them polish their script. Judge's mentee, 16 year-old Loden Cullar-Ledford, wrote The Internet Party. Well, we had to hear what that was all about.

Sean Judge:

There's alienation,

"It's a modern take on Alice in Wonderland or The Wizard of Oz, where this young boy finds himself in this strange place, and he meets personified versions of Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, Google, and he's just trying to figure out how to go home. [Cullar-Ledford] wrote really clever dialogue. For example, Facebook's trying to help, he goes, 'Look, you're on my friends list if you need me,' and 'don't mind MySpace; he's just in one of his moods.' And Google is this wizened, long-bearded old man that they all go to in supplication, saying, 'Can you help him find his parents? We're not sure what that word means.' Google says, 'Well, I have this-many-million results.' Facebook goes, 'No, just tell us the first one.' [Google] says, 'Oh, feeling lucky?'"


"There's one about this Japanese young man who decides to break away from the traditional religions of his forefathers and become sort of a multi-deist. And he has to kill himself because he's offended the emperor. And so it's this very sad 'Night, Mother dialogue between him and his father. And in the end, the father kills himself in his son's place, and it's this really painfully sad thing written by a 13 year-old."

And sex.

"There's a "first date trauma" one, and it's this really embarrassing story--this kid's in the car with his mom, and she's being incredibly, awkwardly embarrassing, asking him about sex. It's his first date with this girl, and he's saying, 'Mom, please don't say this in front of her,' and of course, she does. It's an interesting variety of plays."

The payoff:

"I'm inspired by the fact that there's this group of kids that are interested in this medium still. There are two or three of them that are so clearly going to move on into the theater world and try and do this for their lives. The depth of writing that a 13 year-old kid is capable of coming up with--he did all this research on Japanese culture (and he, himself, is just about as non-Japanese as he can be); it's pretty exciting to see it. You can see that they're clearly influenced by their exposure to modern media, and they're definitely inspired by what they see in movies and television, but it really speaks to the state of theater when I see this happening, and see kids with an obvious interest in it--writing plays and getting selected for this cool program."

Performances: Friday, August 13, 7:30pm Saturday, August 14, 7:30pm Sunday, August 15, 2:30pm

Hubbard Stage, Alley Theatre, 615 Texas. Box office: 713-220-5700 Tickets $5

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