Incoming CUA freshman Juniper Alcorn is featured in the following story from the Montgomery County Gazette.

Young playwright wins top award at Arena Stage

From: The Montgomery County Gazette Date: June 21, 2006 Author: Terri Hogan

Juniper Alcorn's creativity not only allowed her to analyze a frozen TV dinner, it led to the grand-prize award in the Arena Stage Ten-Minute Play competition.

The young playwright, who graduated from Sherwood High School this month, entered her play, ''Conversations on a Dinner Plate," in the contest at the urging of her teacher.

Alcorn's play earned her a $2,500 cash award as the grand-prize winner.

Alcorn had written the play for the Sherwood Dinner Theatre held earlier this year, at which it received the award for the best play.

''People seemed to really like it," Alcorn said. ''My theater teacher gave me the information on the Arena Stage contest, and told me to think about it."

Alcorn's English teacher, Shelley Jackson, helped edit her play.

''Juniper is a bright, insightful student with a wry sense of humor," Jackson said. ''Her play demonstrates her great ear for dialogue and her considerable wit."

Jackson said Alcorn's work ethic will make he stand out among her peers in the coming years.

''Her play went through a number of revisions," she said. ''She approached each one eagerly after graciously accepting constructive criticism. In this respect, especially, she is mature beyond her years."

Alcorn began acting in plays at Sherwood, and later focused her interest on writing plays.

''When I was little I wished I could be an actress, but as I got older, I found that I didn't want to act as much, but wanted to be involved in other ways," she said. ''I was involved in all the plays while I was at Sherwood."

If not acting or writing, Alcorn said she worked on costume design and maintenance, enabling her to understand and appreciate the theatrical productions from all angles.

She has attended the Young Writers Workshop at the University of Virginia for the past two years and plans to continue writing plays.

''Absolutely, because now I know that people like what I write," she said.

She plans to attend Catholic University in the fall, where she will major in psychology.

''I am interested in that topic, and I think it will help me analyze characters better and make my writing more interesting," she said.

''Conversations on a Dinner Plate" involves the components of a TV dinner - meat, peas, mashed potatoes and a brownie - talking about life, death and their purpose on earth.

The Arena Stage contest was open to all students from grades five through 12 in the Washington, D.C., metropolitan area. Entries could include an original performance piece of 10 minutes: a play, a spoken word piece, or a musical.

The theater received 657 entries from students at 53 schools throughout the area. Professional actors and directors of Arena Stage performed the plays of the 10 finalists.

''It was really great," she said. ''I have seen my plays performed before, but I got to interpret seeing someone else doing it in a different way. That will affect how I write, and make me a better writer in the future."

Putting aside the grand prize, just seeing her play performed was a really big deal, Alcorn said, as Arena Stage is billed as the second-largest off-Broadway theater in the United States.

As part of the competition, Alcorn was required to attend writing workshops, where she learned about the revision and rehearsal processes.

''Our goal is to introduce new writers to the whole process of theater," Arena Stage Director of Education Laurie Magovern said. ''Once the 10 were put on their feet, we invited our artistic director and senior dramaturge to read the final drafts and see the plays in production."

Magovern said that Alcorn's creativity and intelligence are two of the strongest points that separated her play from the other entries.