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Young Playwrights Reach for the Stars

Two Hartland High School students reach top six in Michigan State festival.

Two young playwrights will have the opportunity to see their visions come to life when their plays are directed and performed by students at Michigan State University during the Young Playwrights festival this spring.

Two original plays, written by junior Alyssa Caswell and senior Lexee Barrea were chosen to be in the final six plays being performed at the Wharton Center on May 13 in East Lansing.

With more than 50 submissions, 17-year-old Lexee says she is excited to have made it this far in the competition and is looking forward to the final phase which will team her up with a professional playwright before handing her script over to MSU students to perform.

“It’s kind of cool because I’ve never been on this side of the curtain when it comes to production,” Lexee said. “I’m kind of excited to see what’s gonna happen when I don’t have any control of it.”

For her classmate, however, this will be the second time 16-year-old Alyssa has made it into the top six with her original play. Knowing a little more of what to expect throughout the process, Alyssa says that watching others interpret her work is a great experience. 

“Its weird though, especially when you go and see it (the play) because somebody interpreted what you wrote,” Alyssa said. “It’s really strange.”

In May, when both the girls travel to East Lansing, they will be able to watch all six one-act plays performed. They will then be part of a “talk-back” session where they will be asked questions about their plays, their characters and are given feedback.

“They make you really think about what you’re doing,” Alyssa said.

Alyssa’s submission of Good Night Mary is a comedic play about what happens when an elderly couple hears something go bump in the night.

“It ends up being a burglar,” Alyssa said.  “And through a series of all these ridiculous events, he (the burglar) ends up taking the husband’s laxatives. It’s very slapstick, its very just physical comedy.”

Lexee’s submission is also a comedy called Shotgun about Carl, the dramatic middle child who never gets to sit in the front seat of the car.

“It’s mostly about sibling love,” Lexee said. “And how you can love your sibling but hate them at the same time.”

Lexee says that the inspiration for her play came from her own experiences with two older sisters and the battle for the coveted front seat. Writing the play, however, began only as a school assignment that she was rushing to finish with no intention of entering into the contest.

“She (Mrs. Keskes) read it and told me I should submit it,” Lexee said laughing. “I think the most nerve-racking part is actually having a professional playwright look at my script. I’m thinking, oh my gosh he’s gonna think I such an amateur.”

Lexee, who was the runner-up in the Poetry Out-Loud competition last weekend at Saginaw Valley State University, will be attending Wayne State next year on a theater scholarship. The Hartland senior says she definitely wants to pursue some aspect of theater in her future, following the advice given to her of “just do what you love.”

“That’s what I’m basing my future on,” Lexee said. “I don’t really have a set path cause I’ve learned that if you have a set path then it really never goes that way anyway. I’m just going with the flow.”

As for her younger classmate, Alyssa is unsure of her plans after high school but has “many dream job” possibilities including becoming a chef. Theater, acting and writing, however, is something she also hopes to continue to pursue saying that creating plays and acting them out is something she has done since she was little.

“My mom tells me I use to do Barbie operas,” Alyssa said. “Everything I played with used to talk to each other, like French fries. Anything I could get my hands on they would have a little story going on. Always dialogue, always."

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