Saturday, January 6, 2018


JANUARY 4 – 27, 2018

Written by High School Students and Given a Staged Professional Production at Chicago Dramatists 

Here at ChiIL Mama, we're excited to be promoting and reviewing this excellent Fest again this year. I'll be out this Sunday, so check back soon for my full review. In the past I've been enthralled with the high caliber writing and diverse styles of the winning authors. Years ago the daughter of a close friend of mine won the Young Playwrights Fest in high school, and she went on to get her Masters from U of I and continue a lifelong love of theatre and literature. This year my 16 year old son's theatre class from Lane Tech is coming out to see the show this Wednesday, then they're going back to write their own submissions for next year! I'm thrilled we have such a stellar resource in Chicago, to spark the interest of our next generation of playwrights and creative thinkers.

All photos by Emily Schwartz

(L to R)Kristen Alesia and Meagan Dilworth in DECISION DAY by Abigail Henkin, directed by Jerrell Henderson

Pegasus Theatre Chicago is proud to announce the authors and plays being presented at the 31st Young Playwrights Festival, Jan. 4 – 27, 2018 at Pegasus’s resident home Chicago Dramatists, 773 N. Aberdeen. Each play is written by high school students and given a staged professional production. The winning productions are performed in tandem Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 p.m. and Sundays at 3 p.m. Previews are Thursday, Jan. 4 – Saturday, Jan. 6, 2018 at 7:30 p.m. each night. 

Tickets are $18 for students, $25 for seniors and $30 for general admission and are available at or by phone at 866.811.4111.

All photos by Emily Schwartz

(L to R) David Flack and Peter Surma in PENCILS AND PENS by Aaron Powdermaker, directed by Ilesa Duncan

The Young Playwrights Festival (YPF) celebrates the 31st 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. YPF is the only event of its kind in Chicago and is the second largest in the country.

Under the auspices of Pegasus Theatre Chicago, the winning teen playwrights’ productions are work-shopped and staged as part of its main stage season with full casts and production teams. The competition enhances language arts, encourages independent, high-level thinking, strong personal values and influences career development for Chicago’s teens.

The competition received over 500 submissions in 2017 with this year’s selections being Maday Favela of Whitney M. Young Magnet High School and her play Bullet With Butterfly Wings; Mairi Glynn of Von Steuben High School, Monster; Abigail Henkin of Lane Tech College Prep, Decision Day and Aaron Powdermaker of Lane Tech College Prep, Pencils and Pens.

All photos by Emily Schwartz

(L to R) Gloria Petrelli and Meagan Dilworth in BULLET WITH BUTTERFLY WINGS by Maday Favela, directed by Emmi Hilger 


Bullet with Butterfly Wings
By Maday Favela – Whitney M. Young Magnet High School – teacher Elizabeth Danesh
Directed by Emmi Hilger
Leviathan takes advantage of Lexa’s anxiety and depression by coaxing her into ending her year-long friendship with Juno.

By Mairi Glynn – Von Steuben High School – teacher Margaret Sullivan
Directed by Ilesa Duncan
Alya, a Hijabi Muslim teen, is called into a police station for questioning after a bombing.

Decision Day
By Abigail Henkin -- Lane Tech College Prep – teacher Brian Telles
Directed by Jerrell Henderson
Lizzy, a high-achieving high school senior, is being wooed in this hilarious send up of college recruitment.  She struggles to decide which of the three is really her best option.

Pencils and Pens
By Aaron Powdermaker – Lane Tech College Prep – teacher Kirsten Hanson
Directed by Ilesa Duncan
Perry and Marshal are friends enjoying a simple life. However, when Perry wants to move up in the world it’s at the cost of leaving his best friend behind.

All photos by Emily Schwartz

(front L to R) Gloria Imseih Petrelli and Hunter Price, (rear) Amy Johnson and Peter Surma in MONSTER by Mairi Glynn, directed by Ilesa Duncan

The productions’ casts include Kristen Alesia. Meagan Dilworth, David Flack, Amy Johnson, Gloria Petrelli, Hunter Price and Peter Surma.

The production team includes Marisa Gil (scenic designer), Josh Wroblewski (lighting designer), Robert Kuhn (costume designer), Katy Vest (prop designer), AJ Chien (sound designer) and Kelly Butler (production manager).

Jerrell L. Henderson is a director and teaching artist. Recent directing credits include Bud, Not Buddy at the Children's Theatre of Charlotte and The Caucasian Chalk Circle at Franklin & Marshall College. Other credits include The Healer: A Workshop Production with Pegasus Theatre Chicago and In The Red and Brown Water at Northwestern University (co-director with Henry Godinez). As an assistant director, Henderson has worked with The Goodman Theatre, Steppenwolf Theatre, and Lookingglass. He received a BA in Theatre Arts from The Pennsylvania State University, an MFA in Directing from Northwestern University, is a member of the Lincoln Center Directors Lab and is currently a member of Victory Gardens Directors Inclusion Initiative.

Emmi Hilger has directed The Clean House by Sarah Ruhl, References to Salvador Dalí Make Me by José Rivera, Don’t Look by Gina Doherty and Johnny 10 Beers’ Daughter for Something Marvelous (where she is producing artistic director). Hilger has also recently worked with Ensemble Dal Niente, Stage Left, The Jades, 20% Theatre Company, Concordia University, and Collaboraction.  She is an associate artist and associate dramaturg with Chicago Dramatists and an artistic associate with Stage Left.

Ilesa Duncan is the producing artistic director at Pegasus Theatre Chicago. Her recent directing work includes Pegasus’ recent, Jeff-Recommended, sold-out Shakin the Mess Outta Misery, the world premiere of Jeff-Recommended Rutherford’s Travels and For Her as a Piano also for Pegasus, Broken Fences at 16th Street Theater, the 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 Goodman Theatre, 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.

Pegasus Theatre Chicago has been a mainstay in the Chicago theater community for nearly 38 years. Its recent rebranded 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 celebrated its 31st Anniversary this year. Pegasus Theatre Chicago has received seventy-seven Joseph Jefferson Citations since its inception.

The 31st Young Playwrights Festival is made possible with the generous support of The MacArthur Fund at the Richard Driehaus Foundation, the Gaylord & Dorothy Donnelley Foundation, the Lloyd A. Fry Foundation, Polk Bros. Foundation, the Seabury Foundation, the City of Chicago, Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events, and the Illinois Arts Council Agency.

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