Teen's play about Civil War takes top honor in competition CENTRAL COUNTY--Arnold * Broadneck * Severna Park * Crownsville * Millersville

June 03, 1993|By Andrea F. Siegel | Andrea F. Siegel,Staff Writer

It was worth missing a week of gym for.

Eighth-grader William Dunlap spent the time in a classroom with a playwright instead, learning the basics of what goes into a play. And when the week was over, the Severn River Junior High student had drafted two scenes of "Somewhere Out There."

The 14-year-old has gone from hearing his friends read parts during the winter to seeing professional actors perform a staged reading last month at Center Stage in Baltimore.

The Arnold teen-ager's work won first place among middle school entries in the seventh annual Young Playwrights' Festival. The competition is sponsored by the theater's education department, which, for $500 a week, sends a playwright to teach in a school.

William said he was surprised and delighted, but not shocked, that his Civil War play took top honors. The playwright who taught him, Mark Novak of Arlington, Va., "said I should send it in 'cause I had a good chance of winning," William said.

A composer, playwright and singer, Mr. Novak does improvisation over the summer at the Smithsonian's Air and Space Museum and has worked with Center Stage for four years.

William's parents, George and Mary Dunlap, had praise for the fledgling play.

"We are excited for him," said Mrs. Dunlap, who teaches at Shipley's Choice Elementary.

William spent May 17 at Center Stage, as did the first-place winners at the elementary and high school levels, preparing for the evening's staged readings. He worked with actors, a director and Mr. Novak, rewriting dialogue and rehearsing, which he said was "real neat."

The experience has motivated him to finish the play, probably over the summer. Then, he said, he may ask Center Stage if he can come in again to work with professionals for a staged reading of the whole thing.

"We've never done that before, but I wouldn't say that isn't possible," said Center Stage spokesman Linda Geeson.

The theater, she noted, has received a $1.4 million, five-year grant from the Lila Wallace-Reader's Digest Fund to develop young audiences, and works by young people may fall under that.

"Somewhere Out There" centers on two close buddies, teen-agers, who join the Union army. William said he based the relationships on his own experiences.

This isn't the first time the youth's creative juices have been flowing. He has two works of fiction stuffed in a drawer, and he used to put on shows in his neighborhood with friends, he said.

Winners were selected at the elementary, middle and high school levels from the 183 entries Center Stage received for the Young Playwrights' Festival.

Other winners from Anne Arundel County were Amy Culp of Chesapeake Bay Middle School, third place for "Family Realities"; Lori Carpenter of Old Mill Senior High School, second place for "Rape of Youth"; and Sean Hubert of Old Mill Senior High School, third place for "Endings."

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