They start young in Berkeley. As part of Berkeley Repertory Theatre’s 11th annual Teen One-Acts Festival, two winning teens will premiere their plays.

Sophia Canna-Bowman (left) and Frances Maples (Berkeley Repertory Theatre)
Sophia Canna-Bowman (left) and Frances Maples (Berkeley Repertory Theatre)

The plays will take stage at the theater’s new Osher Studio in productions directed, designed, and performed entirely by local high-school students.

The winners for 2013 are 17-year-old Frances Maples of Lafayette, a senior at Acalanes High School, and 18-year-old Sophia Cannata-Bowman of San Francisco, a senior at Sacred Heart Cathedral Preparatory.

The plays are part of the theater’s Teen Council school that nurtures young talent.

Relying on the talents of 24 youth from nine local communities, this year’s plays go up at 8:00 PM on March 22 and 23 and 2:00 PM on March 24. Performances take place at Berkeley Rep’s Osher Studio in Downtown Berkeley. Tickets are only $10 for students and $15 for adults; for more information, visit

Here are descriptions of the two plays from the Rep’s press release:

Frances Maples, who also had a winning script in 2012, returns with Orpheum, a music-infused tale of love, death, and what happens next. Isa loves Stacey, Stacey isn’t so sure… and things don’t get any easier when the Apocalypse hits and the girls find themselves separated by an incomprehensible bureaucracy. Now Isa must escape from heaven’s waiting-room if she wants to rescue her damsel in distress. But Stacey is sick of being a damsel and won’t wait around to be saved. Seventeen-year-old director Ivy Olesen of Berkeley, a senior at Berkeley High School, brings this musical love story to life… and afterlife.

In “Story by Leonard Watts,” Sophia Cannata-Bowman sketches a stunning portrait of the bitter beauty of small-town life. Who wouldn’t want to ditch the danger and drudgery of life in a coal-mining town for the bright lights of Hollywood? Leonard Watts not only made it out, he made it big! Now his screenplay is nominated for an Academy Award – but Hollywood endings are reserved for movies, and running from the past won’t prevent it from catching up. Sixteen-year-old Elia Chuaqui of El Cerrito, a junior at El Cerrito High School, directs this hilarious and heartbreaking play that skips across the swirl of memory.

And here are excerpts from each play.

From Story by Leonard Watts, by Sophia Cannata-Bowman:

ASSISTANT: Leonard Watts?

LEONARD: Present – uh – yes?

ASSISTANT: Mr. Campbell will see you now.

Leonard wipes away his sweat and walks into Barry’s office. Barry blathers into his phone.

BARRY: Then repair the damn costume, Helen – it’s fabric, it’ll mend! (Pauses for voice on other line) Oh, it’s chainmail. (Pause for voice) Then have Salzmann forge it fresh. (Pause for voice) No, the jelly-filled … wait, the wife’s coming in, make it glazed old-fashioned. She collapsed the crafts table last time we got the jelly-filled.

Leonard coughs.

BARRY: Listen Helen, I gotta go. I got a guy here. (Pause for voice) No, just the writer. Yeah … yeah, talk to you later. (Hangs up.) Leo, my man! The genius!

They shake and Leonard sits down.

LEONARD: I’m a big fan, Mr. Campbell. Real big fan.

BARRY: Right, right. Take a seat, Leo.

LEONARD: I’m already –

BARRY: So I liked the script, liked it a lot. Very touching, very real.

LEONARD: Oh great, really great! You know, I struggled a lot to portray Rick’s insecurity, you know? And I’m glad you –

BARRY: Right, so I have a few notes, nothing too big.

LEONARD: Okay . . .

BARRY: First thing. Gotta shorten it. Butts get tired. Kids get fussy. Can’t have ’em walking out before the climax gets going can we? Forty pages.

LEONARD: Um – shorten it, sir? I’ve already cut out fifty –

BARRY: And air it out. More white space. And let’s talk about picking up the pace. It’s kinda slow.

LEONARD: Well, sir, it’s a small town –

BARRY: Here’s my idea. We keep the love parts, but instead of the girl’s parents being teachers, we’ll have them be undercover spies. They’ll die in a car bombing in Morocco. I really think that’ll add the “umph” we need.

LEONARD: Sir, Morocco? They live in a small Pennsylvania town.

BARRY: Lived, kid, lived. They move to Calcutta when their identity is compromised.

LEONARD: Um, sir –

BARRY: Leo. Buddy. Audiences want explosions. They want hot women. Which brings me to my next point. Jennie’s job.

LEONARD: I’d like to keep her a waitress –

BARRY: Good, good, me too! So she’ll work at Hooters – just does it to make a living. A troubled soul, wants to get out, become an actress!

LEONARD: Hooters?

BARRY: And the ending, Leo –

LEONARD: Leonard.

BARRY: The ending needs to go.

From Oprheum, by Frances Maples:

RECEPTIONIST: Next. (STACEY is surprised to hear the voice.) Please state your full name, date of birth, place of birth, and deepest desire.

STACEY: What? Why are you… You really need to know all that?

RECEPTIONIST: Do you know how many John Smiths we get in here? How many Maria Fernandezes? These are necessary questions for preliminary identification. If there are still multiple persons with identical answers after these five facts are recorded, then more information will be needed. Now will you please tell me your full name, date of birth, place of birth, and deepest desire, ma’am?

STACEY: Oh, um… okay… Stacey Grace Johnson; September third, 1994; Oakland, California, United States of America; and the last one was deepest desire, right? (The RECEPTIONIST nods, somewhat bored.) That’s a hard question. Um…

RECEPTIONIST: I’ve pulled up the files, and there are six Stacey Grace Johnsons that were born at your place and time. Would you like me to read off the desires for you to identify yourself?

STACEY: Oh. Yeah. Sure, I guess.

RECEPTIONST: Okay, you either want to open up your own restaurant, to protect your family, to find happiness, to find happiness again, (Oh, that might be a problem…) to be unafraid of-

STACEY:  That’s me, that’s me! I already know it’s me; you don’t need to read the rest.

RECEPTIONIST: Alright, then. Oh! Good news, Stacey Grace, you’re on the list. Please move on to the next room.

STACEY: Wait! Um, where-

RECEPTIONIST: It’s just right on through, ma’am.

STACEY: No, I mean, where am I? What happened? And I was just with, um… a friend? A really close friend of mine. Where is she?

Teen Plays On Stage at Berkeley Rep 25 March,2013Laird Harrison

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