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Pegasus Players’ Young Playwrights Festival on Chicago Dramatists stage

Pegasus Theatre Chicago will be staging its 28th annual Young Playwrights Festival in a new location. This showcase of professional productions of one-act plays penned by four emerging young artists from Chicago area high schools will run Jan. 5-31, 2015, at Chicago Dramatists, 1105 W. Chicago, a venue that has long been an intimate showcase for new plays and playwrights. Previews run Jan. 1-4.

The Young Playwrights Festival — a citywide playwriting competition that gives voice to teenagers while promoting the art of writing for the stage — is a school-oriented program that helps students craft one-act plays for an April submission deadline. In 2014, Pegasus received over 400 submissions. The four winning playwrights selected will receive $500 each, as well as the opportunity to work with theater professionals as their plays are workshopped, staged and produced as part of Pegasus’ season. The second oldest festival of its kind in the country, the project is designed to enhance language arts, encourage independent, high-level thinking and strong personal values, and influence career development for area teens.

“This was a very strong year for entries,” said producing artistic director Ilesa Duncan. “It always amazes and humbles me to read the creative talents of these young writers. And it is such an honor to see those works come to life on the stage through the Pegasus production.”

The theme of this year’s Festival is “something wicked interferes.” The four winners of the 2014 competition are:

Deja Jenkins of Whitney Young Magnet High School. Her play, “A Matter of Life (And Maybe Death),” directed by Duncan, is about Iris, who is recovering from a serious accident in the hospital when she is confronted by a mysterious stranger. The battle of her life ensues as she attempts to outwit this confessed “servant of death.”

Daisianee Minenger of Providence St. Mel. Her play, “Dare to be Different,” directed by Juan Ramirez (whose 30-year career includes the founding of the Latino Chicago Theatre), is about Rico and Cornell, members of opposing gangs who protect their bond of friendship despite the danger they face from within their worlds. Matters get further complicated when Cornell reveals a secret.

Taylor Vazquez, a recent Lane Tech Academy grad. In “Dirty Spoons,” directed by Duncan, we meet a boy attempting to impress his father by becoming a contestant on a cooking show. But when Glenn becomes a “cheftestant” on “Chefs off the Street” he soon discovers there’s something dark about cooking competitions, and even stranger about his fellow chefs.

Steve Maloy, a recent Whitney Young grad. In “A Day at the Office,” directed by Warner Crocker (returning to this city where he founded Chicago’s pioneering Absolute Theatre, before spending the past 15 years as artistic director of Virginia’s Wayside Theatre). The play follows Andrew, a young executive desperate to land Infini Corporation as a client in order to gain favor with his superiors. Will he need to sell his soul to the Devil in order to succeed?

The ensemble cast includes: Christian JJ Anderson, David Goodloe, Angelica Herndon, Victoria Montalbano, Jose Nateras, Adam Overberg, and Sarah Patin. The design team includes Sarah Lewis (sets); Emil Boulos (lighting); Chris Kriz (sound); and Izumi Inaba (costumes).

For tickets ($18-$30): (773) 878-8864; www.PegasusTheatreChicago.org.