May 16, 2011
By JAMES BARRON
Dan Kitrosser said the dress rehearsal had gone well.
“I knew because the lighting designer asked how old was the kid who wrote this play, and I got to say, ‘12,’ ” he said. “Every single show we go through, it’s the same question: ‘How old was the person who wrote that?’ ”
Mr. Kitrosser, the artistic director of the Writopia Lab’s Best Playwrights Festival, will be getting that question a lot in the next few days. The festival, a weeklong Off Broadway presentation of more than 40 plays and 8 monologues by writers in grades 1 through 12, begins on Tuesday at the June Havoc Theater, at 312 West 36th Street.
Most of the plays are the work of students in the Writopia Lab, a nonprofit group that runs writing workshops for children and teenagers. But this year, the Writopia Lab reviewed submissions from young writers outside its community and chose seven works that will be presented during the festival.
To stage the plays, Writopia recruited grownup actors and directors, including Terry Berliner, the resident director of “The Lion King,” and Isaac Byrne, the director of the Off Broadway thriller “Fresh Kills.”
Seeing your own play performed is a big step for would-be playwrights, and an instructive one, Mr. Kitrosser said. “They get to see how many routes actors and directors can take their words and stay true to their text,” he said. “That’s important, because there are the artsy actors in high school who get the applause during their performances and the athletes who get their cheers. But writing is a lonely business. There’s not much of a place for recognition or for socializing.”
The festival’s sponsor is David Letterman’s production company, Worldwide Pants. Mr. Kitrosser said that Steve Young, a writer on the “Late Show With David Letterman,” made the introduction. His daughters, Hannah Young, 14, and Rebecca Shubert, 17, have taken part in Writopia workshops.
“We asked for $45,000,” Mr. Kitrosser said. “When Rebecca called” with word that the money had come through, “she did the joke: ‘They didn’t give us $45,000, they gave us $50,000.’ ”