Monday, January 7, 2019


Young Playwrights--Big Talent!
ChiIL Mama's Chi, IL Picks List 

90 minute run time (1 intermission)

 (L to R) Sam Godinez, Kameron Villavicencio and Grace Bolander (rear: Juan Mares Castillo and Marianna Gallegos) from GOOD STRONG COFFEE  in the 32nd Annual YOUNG PLAYWRIGHTS FESTIVAL at Pegasus Theatre Chicago. All Photos by Michael Courier

by bonnie kenaz-mara

I catch literally hundreds of professional productions in Chicago annually, and yet the quality of the plays produced in Pegasus Theatre's Young Playwrights Festival never ceases to amaze me. These talented teens are observant, funny, wise beyond their years, and killing it with dialogue, compelling characters, and strong plots. After 32 years, Pegasus has the fest down to a science that includes months of support for young playwrights including school workshops with professional playwrights. Over 500 submissions go through a grueling selection process until just 3 nuggets of brilliance remain. These scripts are given a professional production and the authors walk away with a cash prize and the joy of seeing their characters come to life on stage, embodied by professional actors.

Here at ChiIL Mama and ChiIL Live Shows, we've been covering the Young Playwrights Festival for years. 2018 was particularly exciting for my family, since my son wrote and submitted a play and got to work with Pegasus at Lane Tech. The competition was fierce, so his was not one of the 3 finalists, but his play did get an in class performance, and the whole experience was invaluable. He joined me at the press opening Sunday, and I was amazed that he knew 6 or 7 of the finalists, winners, and audience members that came to support their classmates' winning works. We truly are so lucky to live in a city that values theatre arts and is committed to encouraging and supporting the next generation of creative voices. 

Sam Godinez  from A GREEN LIGHT in the 32nd Annual YOUNG PLAYWRIGHTS FESTIVAL at Pegasus Theatre Chicago 

The winning productions for 2019 were multilayered, multicultural, and LGBTQ positive. Two of the productions portrayed sparking gay and lesbian relationships as awkwardly charming as any young crushes. These three intrepid writers tackled child abuse, suicidal ideation, cultural community, family/work balance, sexual identity, and more.

(L to R) Jamia Taylor from FRAGILE LIMBS in the 32nd Annual YOUNG PLAYWRIGHTS FESTIVAL at Pegasus Theatre Chicago

Often teens can be uncommunicative, misunderstood and underestimated. Over 90 minutes, these teens gave the audience the gift of their words, and a window into their generation's hopes, fears, experiences, and energy. Kudos to Pegasus for fostering this long running incubator for young playwrights that impacts hundreds of Chicago public school students annually. Big congratulations to all the applicants, finalists and winners. May this experience be a launching pad and a beginning, for years of writing, observing human nature, and creating art. 

Don't miss this. Highly recommended.

Bonnie Kenaz-Mara is a Chicago based writer-theater critic-photographer-videographer-actress-artist-general creatrix and Mama to two terrific teens. She owns two websites where she has published frequently since 2008: (adult) & (family friendly). 

Experience an Evening of New Plays from Chicago High School Students Exploring Identity and Community

Pegasus Theatre Chicago is proud to announce the authors and plays being presented at the 32nd Young Playwrights Festival, January 3 – 27, 2019 at Pegasus’s resident home Chicago Dramatists, 773 N. Aberdeen. The productions are performed in tandem Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 p.m. and Sundays at 3 p.m. Previews are Thursday, Jan. 3 – Saturday, Jan. 5, 2019 at 7:30 p.m. each night. Press opening is Sunday, Jan. 6, 2019 at 3 p.m. Tickets are $18 for students, $25 for seniors and $30 for general admission and are available at or by phone at 773.878.8864.

The Young Playwrights Festival (YPF) celebrates the 32nd year of the program that inspires Chicago students to explore their histories, research their communities and mine their personal journeys to write dynamic one-act plays for the stage. The competition enhances language arts, encourages independent, high-level thinking, strong personal values and influences career development for Chicago’s teens.

The 2018-19 season continues with full productions of winning plays from the annual playwriting competition for high-school-age scribes in Chicago. Three one-act plays are professionally produced as part of Pegasus’ main stage season. The second oldest such festival in the country, this annual tradition regularly receives over 500 submissions from Chicago area teens. From those, the winning playwrights are chosen to connect with professional artists to workshop and stage their script. 


(L to R) Marianna Gallegos and Sam Godinez from A GREEN LIGHT in the 32nd Annual YOUNG PLAYWRIGHTS FESTIVAL at Pegasus Theatre Chicago

A Green Light
By Alexis Gaw – Lane Tech College Prep, teacher: Julie Allen
Directed by Joan Mazzonelli
Patrick comes out to his best friend but discovers her casual homophobia. With the help of an online friend group, Patrick is able to sort through his feelings. 

(L to R) Jamia Taylor and Vincent Banks from FRAGILE LIMBS in the 32nd Annual YOUNG PLAYWRIGHTS FESTIVAL at Pegasus Theatre Chicago

Fragile Limbs
By Anonda Tyler – Kenwood Academy, teacher Nina Willams
Directed by Juan Ramirez
Faith, a teenage boy struggling with loss meets Hope, a teenage girl struggling with abuse and self-esteem. Together, they find strength against the backdrop of a violent Chicago.

(L to R) Juan Mares Castillo, Elaine C. Bell and Kameron Villavicencio from GOOD STRONG COFFEE in the 32nd Annual YOUNG PLAYWRIGHTS FESTIVAL at Pegasus Theatre Chicago

Good Strong Coffee
By Luna MacWilliams – Whitney M. Young Magnet High School; teacher Elizabeth Danesh
Directed by Ilesa Duncan
Siblings Violeta and Ernesto juggle their own dreams and desires while trying to keep the family’s Pilsen-neighborhood coffee shop afloat.

The cast for the productions includes Vincent Banks, Grace Bolander, Juan Castillo, Marianna Gallegos, Sam Godinez, Kameron Villavicencio and Jamia Taylor.

The production team includes designers Nick Schwartz (scenic), Josh Wroblewski (lighting), Steve Labedz (sound), Owé Engobor (costumes) and Kelly Butler (production manager).

Joan Mazzonelli has produced, directed, and designed original works in Chicago and New York City.  With Pegasus Theatre last season, she was the dramaturg on The Green Book. She has served in leadership roles with City Lit Theater, Griffin Theatre, Midwest New Musicals, Athenaeum Theatre, Theatre Building Chicago, On Stage Productions, Opera Shop at the Vineyard Theatre, and National Shakespeare Company. Her musical books include: Bottom’s Dream with James L. Kurtz, the adaptation for the stage of All in the Laundry by Fred Rogers of Mr. Rogers Neighborhood, Reasonable Terms with Karena Mendoza and Marianne Kallen, and High Fidelity, The Proposal, Dorabella’s Daughters and The Passion of John with Philip Seward, as well as the co-adaptation of Border Crossing with Marianne Kallen.

Juan Ramírez has been active in film, theater and television for 35 years. As an actor, he has been featured in over 60 productions and was a series regular on ABC's detective drama "Missing Persons." As a director, Ramirez has written, directed and/or produced over 30 stage productions and two full length films. His first film, “Israel in Exile,” was a 2002 Slamdance Film Festival Competition Selection that has been screened in France, England, Spain, Cuba, Mexico and across the U.S. After a brief stretch in Los Angeles, he resettled in his native Chicago and became executive director of PanAmerica Performance Works, formerly Latino Chicago Theater Company at The Firehouse (a company which he co-founded). He also works with high school students at The Boys and Girls Club in South Lawndale through After School Matters; and the rest of his time developing potential film projects, and helping create community theater spaces.

Ilesa Duncan is the executive/producing director at Pegasus Theatre Chicago. Her recent directing work at Pegasus includes the Jeff-Recommended, Eclipsed, and the Jeff-Nominated, sold-out Shakin the Mess Outta Misery (BTAA-award, Ensemble),  the world premiere of Jeff-Recommended Rutherford’s Travels and For Her as a Piano.  Other recent credits include Neverwhere at Lifeline Theatre (Jeff-Recommended), Broken Fences at 16th StreetTheater, Jeff Award-nominated The Nativity with Congo Square and the Jeff Award-winning Jar the Floor at ETA Creative Arts. Duncan has also worked with The Goodman, Writers Theatre, Victory Gardens Theater, Rivendell Theatre Ensemble, Lifeline Theater, Stage Left and Chicago Dramatists, as well as Contemporary American Theatre Company (Ohio). The Alliance Theatre (Atlanta), Arena Stage (Washington DC) and Lincoln Center Theater (New York). Duncan’s creative nonfiction short stories have been published (Columbia College Chicago) and she’s written poems and screenplays.  For the stage, she co-adapted Rutherford’s Travels from the National Book Award-winning novel Middle Passage, co-wrote and directed Blakk Love: Stoeez of A Darker Hue and facilitated the devised project Do You See What I’m Saying for Chameleon. Duncan will also assume the 
role of artistic director at Lifeline Theatre beginning in January 2019, and will remain Pegasus’ executive/producing director.

Pegasus Theatre Chicago has been a mainstay in the Chicago theater community for nearly 39 years. Its mission is to produce boldly imaginative theatre, champion new and authentic voices and illuminate the human journey. The theatre adheres to the core values of community engagement, social relevance, boldness, adventure and excellence.

Pegasus is also committed to initiating important conversations through the arts with strong community engagement and socially relevant programming, including the Young Playwrights Festival for high school-age scribes, which will celebrate its 32nd year this season. Pegasus Theatre Chicago has received 77 Joseph Jefferson Awards since its inception.

The 32nd Young Playwrights Festival is made possible with the generous support of The David & Reva Logan Foundation, The MacArthur Fund at the Richard Driehaus Foundation, the Gaylord & Dorothy Donnelley Foundation, the Lloyd A. Fry Foundation, Polk Bros. Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, the City of Chicago, Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events, and the Illinois Arts Council Agency 

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