Press Release

 

For immediate release

April 10, 2017

Contact person: Walter F. Rodriguez

Company name:  Writers Theatre of New Jersey

Telephone number:  973-514-1787 X20

Fax number:  973-514-2060

Email address:  wrodriguez@wtnj.org

Website address:  www.wtnj.org

 

 

NJ Student Writers Win Big in WTNJ Contests

Madison, NJ — Writers Theatre of New Jersey has just announced the high school winners of both the thirty-fourth annual New Jersey Young Playwrights Festival and the first annual New Jersey Youth Poet Laureate contest! Young writers from all over the state are represented.

 

The high school winners of Writers Theatre’s New Jersey Young Playwrights Festival are: Packing by Michael Villanueva, a student at the Middlesex County Vocational and Technical Schools – East Brunswick; Trust No One by Gabrielle Poisson, a Newark Academy student; Learn Your ABCs by Elijah Gaines, of Lindenwold High School, & Jaleel Lindsey, from the Greenfields Residential Community Home; Smile by Kianni Keys from Newark Academy, and Hot Dogs and Feminism by Jasmine Sharma, a student at Bergen County Academy for Visual & Performing Arts.

 

The winners of Writers Theatre’s first annual New Jersey Youth Poet Laureate Contest are Mel Xiao, a Newark Academy student from Livingston; Eileen Huang, a High Technology High School student from Holmdel; and Nicole Tota, a Cherokee High School student from Marlton. The three winners will represent North, Central, and South Jersey, respectively. Writers Theatre will present them with opportunities to perform and share their work throughout the state and their poems will be published later this year.

 

Winners of both contests will receive Governor’s Awards.

Over 450 plays were submitted for this year’s New Jersey Young Playwrights Festival as students all over the state worked to complete plays before the Festival deadline.  Finalists also had their plays critiqued by professional playwrights from all over the United States, allowing them the valuable chance to learn from these professionals and to revise their work, making it stronger before resubmitting it for final consideration. Along with the Governor’s Awards, the New Jersey Young Playwrights Festival winners will receive a one-year membership to the Dramatists Guild, the professional playwrights union; and will have their plays staged in a reading with professional actors and directors in June

 

Both Gabrielle Poisson and Jasmine Sharma are two-time winners, with Poisson having won in 2015 and Sharma in 2016. Sharma also has two poems represented in the NJ Youth Poet Laureate contest. Elijah Gaines, of Lindenwold High School, & Jaleel Lindsey, from the Greenfields Residential Community Home, also won the Kennedy Center’s VSA Playwright Discovery Award Program earlier this year with Learn Your ABCs. “No one is probably more surprised than Elijah and Jaleel,” said John Pietrowski, Writers Theatre’s Artistic Director. “They reluctantly wrote Learn your ABCs as part of a required workshop with Master Teacher Dominique Cieri at Greenfields Residential. As part of the workshop, they performed it with professional actors at NJPAC, then suddenly found themselves at The Kennedy Center in Washington DC, and now they have won a state award.” A selection from the performance at NJPAC is available on the home page of the WTNJ website at www.wtnj.org.

 

The NJ Young Playwrights Festival also honors student-written plays in the Elementary School and Junior School Divisions. Winners from those two categories will be announced in the upcoming weeks.

 

The Youth Poet Laureate contest was something Writer’s Theatre Artistic Director John Pietrowski had long been wanting to provide for New Jersey youth poets, alongside the other educational writing opportunities the theatre already provides, like the NJ Young Playwrights Festival. Pietrowski: “This project is part of the National Youth Poet Laureate Program, run by Michael Cirelli of Urban Word in New York City. It has an enormous national presence. The winning writers will each have five of their poems printed in the national anthology, compete for a Northeast Region prize that includes an anthology of the winners work, and finally, have the opportunity to become the National Youth Poet Laureate. Additional performance opportunities will be available both in state and regionally.”

 

Over 165 students submitted 830 poems this year. Each student had to submit a Poem of Place, which literally or metaphorically describes where the poet lives. We asked Kaeley Ipson, a poet from Somerville High School who participated in the contest, how she approached writing her poem of place, “The World Outside My Window.”  She responded, “after hours of scribbling nonsense notes of sheets of paper, an idea emerged in my head. I saw the leaves falling from the tree limbs, lying cracked and calloused on the dry grass. I saw the sun dip below the autumn tree line. I saw how lethargic the tree limbs looked; they hung low in the air as the wind stripped away their leaves. While noticing these things, I realized though I was removed from the environment outside, I still was affected by nature.”

 

“I decided to write a poem about the sheltered life we, as modern humans, live. Though we shelter ourselves from nature, we are not exempt from the effects of nature. Just as summer must turn into fall, we must age and change as well. After I came up with this idea, the entire poem flowed from there. I wrote enthusiastically the rest of the night, editing, tweaking, re-reading, and repeating.”

 

Forty-one poems of place from this year’s competition will be collected and published on the Writers Theatre website and combined with a visual component to create a virtual poetic map of the state of New Jersey, which allows readers to find out about the places those poets are from through their poetry. Additionally, “Judge’s Choice” poems will be published online at www.wtnj.org

 

This year’s NJ Youth Poet Laureate competition was judged by professional poets and writers that include New Jersey State Council on the Arts Poetry Fellows, Pushcart Prize nominees, and more. The judges were Eloise Bruce, Arthur Wilson, Penny Harter, Meghan Privitello, Joseph Rathgeber, David Keller, Claudia Cortese, Gabor Barabas, Peter Murphy, and Nancy Scott. “All of the judges are well-recognized New Jersey-based professional poets,” said Pietrowski. “Our goal was to bring these writers into the rich community that is New Jersey Poetry.”

 

[A list of Poet Laureates, the “Judge’s Choice,” and Poems of Place winners follows. Students’ schools and hometowns are listed]

 

For more information on any of Writers Theatre’s programs, please visit www.wtnj.org, or contact Playwrights Theatre at P.O. Box 1295, Madison, NJ, 07940, 973-514-1787 x20 or info@wtnj.org.

 

New Jersey Youth Poet Laureates:

Southern NJ (Atlantic, Ocean, Cape May, Cumberland, Salem, Gloucester, Burlington, Camden)

Nicole Tota from Marlton – a student at Cherokee High School in Marlton, NJ.

Central NJ (Mercer, Hunterdon, Somerset, Middlesex, Monmouth)

Eileen Huang from Holmdel – a student at High Technology High School in Lincroft, NJ.

Northern (Sussex, Warren, Passaic, Bergen, Morris, Hudson, Essex, Union)

Mel Xiao from Livingston – a student at Newark Academy in Livingston, NJ.

 

Judge’s Choice Poems

Forty of the highest scoring poems will be published in an online anthology on the WTNJ website. Nineteen students had their poems included in the Judge’s Choice Category (sorted by home town)

Name Municipality School School City
Elizabeth Hanna Bayonne Bayonne High School Bayonne
Jasmine Sharma Franklin Lakes Bergen County Academies Hackensack
Su Min Kim Harrington Park Bergen County Academies Hackensack
Eileen Huang Holmdel High Technology High School Lincroft
Sarah Ryu Leonia Bergen County Academies Hackensack
Alexa Dersovitz Livingston Livingston High school Livingston
Alexandra Franchino Livingston Livingston High School Livingston
Evelyn Ho Livingston Livingston High School Livingston
Mattie Beauford Livingston Livingston High School Livingston
Mel Xiao Livingston Newark Academy Livingston
Young Se Choi Livingston Newark Academy Livingston
Ezra Lebovitz Maplewood Newark Academy Livingston
Miranda Crowley Monroe Township Monroe Township High School Monroe Township
Melissa Cui Oradell Bergen County Academies Hackensack
Jenna Israel Short Hills Millburn High School Millburn
Emma Weiss Upper Saddle River Northern Highlands Regional High School Allendale
Katharine Boyajian Upper Saddle River Northern Highlands Regional High School Allendale
Nicole Yeager Upper Saddle River Northern Highlands Regional High School Allendale
Anika Prakash West Windsor West Windsor-Plainsboro High School South West Windsor

 

Poems of Place

Forty-one poems were selected as part of the special Poems of Place Category, where writers had to submit a poem that had something to do with where they lived. These poems will be published on an interactive map on the NJ Youth Poet Laureate Website at WTNJ.org.  The 41 winners are below (sorted by home town):

 

Name Town School Municipality Poem
Samantha Yaccarino Allendale Northern Highlands Regional High School Allendale Artificial
Vincent Lam Bayonne Bayonne High School Bayonne Bayonne
Elizabeth Hanna Bayonne Bayonne High School Bayonne Quarters
Ujwal Rajaputhra Belle Mead Montgomery High School Skillman Chaos Unchained
Sean Pergola Blairstown North Warren Regional High School Blairstown Bursting Point
Kaeley Ipson Branchburg Somerville High School Somerville The World Outside My Window
David Tian Edison John P. Stevens High School Edison In Response to Kerry James Marshall
Sophie Weinberg Edison John P. Stevens High School Edison Room
Grace Catalano Egg Harbor Township Egg Harbor Township High School Egg Harbor Township Bridgeton Avenue
Jasmine Sharma Franklin Lakes Bergen County Academies Hackensack Dust
Su Min Kim Harrington Park Bergen County Academies Hackensack Migration
Jacqueline Yang Ho-Ho-Kus Northern Highlands Regional High School Allendale Garden of the Dead
Ethan Sumner Ho-Ho-Kus Northern Highlands Regional High School Allendale Home
Eileen Huang Holmdel High Technology High School Lincroft How to Ride the NJ Transit
Jess D’Agostino Holmdel Holmdel High School Holmdel A Hospital Bed (after “And Soul” by Eavan Boland
Nicole Santiago Lake Hopatcong Jefferson Township High School Oak Ridge Garden Lungs and A Harp String Ribcage
Sarah Ryu Leonia Bergen County Academies Hackensack 할머니
Young Se Choi Livingston Newark Academy Livingston Evening in New York
Mel Xiao Livingston Newark Academy Livingston Livingston
Jesica Porcelli Livingston Livingston High School Livingston Fireworks
Mattie Beauford Livingston Livingston High School Livingston Fall
Emily Mayo Mahwah Bergen County Academies Hackensack The House on a Hill
Ezra Lebovitz Maplewood Newark Academy Livingston Love Letter to a City
Aarushi Gupta Marlton Cherokee High School Marlton A Walk in the Woods
Nicole Tota Marlton Cherokee High School Marlton Epiphany of a Morning Commute
Miranda Crowley Monroe Township Monroe Township High School Monroe Township Home is a Loved One
Carly Cananvina Morris Plains Morristown High School Morristown Warm Sugar
Danielle Simon Morristown Morristown High School Morristown Simon Danielle What A World
Brittany Marcucci Newark Kearny High School Kearny Brick City
Melissa Cui Oradell Bergen County Academies Hackensack 1663 Dong Fang Street
Sierra Farrell Parlin Sayreville War Memorial High School Parlin Mailing Address
Neha Komatreddy Princeton Junction Peddie School Hightstown Unsolicited Advice to New Neighbors
Michael Ni Red Bank Middletown HS South Middletown Red Bank
Jenna Israel Short Hills Millburn High School Millburn Dollhouse Town
Emma Weiss Upper Saddle River Northern Highlands Regional High School Allendale Welcome Home!
Katharine Boyajian Upper Saddle River Northern Highlands Regional High School Allendale 7 Ridge Roadplace
Lauren Ellis Upper Saddle River Northern Highlands Regional High School Allendale Seaside Heights
Taylor Bechtel Upper Saddle River Northern Highlands Regional High School Allendale The Trees That Grew From Sadness
Nicole Yeager Upper Saddle River Northern Highlands Regional High School Allendale Carlstadt, NJ
Anika Prakash West Windsor West Windsor-Plainsboro High School South West Windsor Where Did You Come From? How Did You Arrive?
Katy Kim Westfield Newark Academy Livingston Late Note

 

 

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About Writers Theatre of New Jersey:

 

Writers Theatre is a 501(c)3 not-for-profit, professional (Actors’ Equity) theatre and a community of professional playwrights, theatre artists, and arts educators that provides opportunities for writers to develop their works in a nurturing environment and connect with new audiences. Our New Play Development Program is a multi-step process through which playwrights, theatre artists, and audiences collaborate to bring selected texts from rough draft to finished production.

 

Our Education Programs introduce students of all ages and backgrounds to the possibilities inherent in thinking and communicating creatively. Writers Theatre’s New Jersey Writers Project provides hands-on workshops led by professional writers-in-residence to students in schools and community centers throughout the state. We place an equal emphasis on Development and Educational activities, and encourage our community and audiences to participate fully in both.

We are honored that, every year since 2003, the New Jersey State Council on the Arts (NJSCA) has designated Writers Theatre as a Major Arts Institution. This means that the Council considers Writers Theatre to be “an anchor institution that contributes vitally to the quality of life in New Jersey.”

 

Funding for our activities comes from: the New Jersey State Council on the Arts/Department of State, a Partner Agency of the National Endowment for the Arts, the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation, the F.M. Kirby Foundation, Inc., Dramatist Guild Fund, Horizon Foundation of New Jersey, The Shubert Foundation, The Victoria Foundation, and many corporations, foundations and individuals.