By Luella Harding
The MYPP (or Massachusetts Young Playwrights Project) is a festival that is run by Boston University’s Theatre program. Every year, it showcases two chosen high school student’s 10-minute plays that they wrote to be professionally staged. This year, Makesha Mercedat and Jenna Vanella were the seniors who got their plays chosen.
When people first hear about the MYPP, they usually think of it as some kind of competition, since two students’ plays are chosen to be performed by students at Boston University. However, this isn’t exactly the case. According to Mercedat, “This is not a competition, it’s a festival celebrating student work, so there’s no winners or losers, money, cash prize, anything like that.”
The process of writing the plays all started when a playwright mentor came in to talk to the students at Malden High. Samantha Noble, a playwright mentor and student at Boston University, came in twice: once when the project began and once at the end. Mercedat mentions how “She sat and discussed with us how a 10-min play is written, the elements of a play, how it happens, etc.,” All of the students seemed to get a lot out of having the mentor come in, since she helped to guide the student’s writing process and create a successful piece to be performed.
Creating the plays was a little stressful for the students. However, Vanella seemed to have an pretty easy time writing her play. “It was only stressful when trying to come up with an idea,” she remembers. “[She] created and scratched so many options that it's crazy to think [she] finally settled down on one. After [she] had the plot of the play, it was very easy to come up with characters and dialogue.”
Once written, each of the plays turned out great and fascinated everyone in the audience watching the first performance at Malden High. Vanella’s piece revolved around immortality and the temptation to live forever.
“The play is about a brother and a sister looking for ways to cure their sick mother, and they turn to a woman who is immortal and has potions that can make people immortal. The woman reminisces about her life over a couple of centuries, and in doing so, the brother becomes fascinated by immortality. He wants his whole family to become immortal. The woman persuades the brother to give her back a potion, and she remains where she started, and will probably stay there for a long, long time.”
In contrast, Mercedat’s script for her play is inspired by one of her favorite novels, Like No Other by Una LaMarche. This original story is about a black boy who falls in love with a Jewish girl, and although the girl has been brought up in a strict Hasidic family, they risk everything to be together. “In [her] play, it is based around these three boys at a Jewish boarding school, where one of them falls in love with a black girl at a field trip… The play is basically about these three boys arguing about why he shouldn’t leave to see this girl [again]… because of religion, because of getting in trouble in general since she isn’t Jewish, it’s [them arguing] ‘please stay, don’t risk it.’”
Mercedat also made the interesting decision to not include the boy’s love interest as a main character of the play, and have play just revolve around these three boys and their argument.
Finding out about getting their play chosen was an exciting moment for both Vanella and Mercedat. “[She] believe[s] [she] was getting [her] internship papers signed, and then [Ms. Clapp] just told [her] ‘By the way, you got your play chosen and your play is getting staged’,” Mercedat explained.
“[She] was so happy because [her] time in PlayPro hasn’t been the best, so it’s kind of almost a redemption thing where [she] felt like [she] didn’t fit into the class, where [she] felt like [she] didn’t belong there, but then [she] wrote something that really was impressive, even for some of the best actors in our class as well as our principal who found the play to be really good. [She] was ecstatic that [she was being] recognized for something, even something that was only 10 minutes.”
Additionally, Vanella felt a similar way. “[She] was excited and surprised. [She is] glad they had chosen [hers] because [she is] in the process of staging the play for an upcoming show and [she would] like to be able to watch it with someone else's direction.” Having this “extra director” also helps to see the play in another perspective.
In the end, all of the plays turned out really good, and the students from BU who performed them did an amazing job, as well as the students who wrote the scripts.