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Young Santee Writer Wins Statewide Playwright Contest

The Playwrights Project presents Kelsey Bavencoff’s intriguing comic drama.

Want to know what young people have on their minds? Check out Plays by Young Writers, the dramatized results of the 26th annual statewide California Young Playwrights Contest, sponsored by the Playwrights Project of San Diego. In particular, you can see what one young Santeean has on her mind.

Kelsey Bavencoff is a graduate of , where, in her senior year, she took a creative writing class. One class assignment was to write a 10-page play script. Then the teacher suggested that the class send their scripts to the Plays by Young Writers contest. Not everyone did, but Bavencoff, 17 at the time, sent her play in, and it was a winner, chosen from among 294 submissions for a full production.

“I’ve loved writing all my life,” says Kelsey, now 19 and a student at . “I started writing stories and poetry in junior high.”

She attended from elementary through junior high, and had a few of her creations published in the West Hills High literary magazine.

“I’ve always been a very big reader, too,” she says. Good training for a writer.

“I’ve always had a lot of creative energy– for photography, picture collages, drawing. But some of my activities come and go. I don’t think I could ever stop writing if I tried.”

Kelsey’s winning play, “Next Train to Nowhere,” is a humorous look at some profound subjects: life, death, cancer, being stuck and moving on. Two strangers meet on a train and in their brief interaction, they wind up changing the course of each other’s lives.

Kelsey has found the process of having her play produced “a really great experience.”

The director, Carrie Klewin, has encouraged her to “get deeper into the characters.” And one of her favorite parts of the process? “It’s really incredibly cool to have people speaking the lines I wrote.”

Like so many writers, she’s “not entirely sure” what her inspiration for the play actually was. “I’d heard and read about people with cancer. I had to imagine how this young woman was feeling. For both characters, it’s about facing what really scares you.”

It isn’t easy for her to describe how her two characters came to her.

“Natalie just popped into my head,” she says. “Eventually, George wandered in. I was pretty much letting them do their own thing. When I’d read writers saying that, I always said, ‘No way!’ But that’s kind of what happens.”

Kelsey’s is one of two winning Plays By Young Writers; the competition is open to students under age 19. The is “Trevor,” by Carlsbad resident Ben Kelly, about a quirky, misunderstood outsider who has a plan for world domination.

One segment of the competition is open to writers under 14. The winners will have their plays presented as readings: “Russet” by 11-year-old Kira Nolan of Encinitas, about a timid wolf pup, and “The Spirits of the Bells,” by Kaylin Jeanne Greisen and Sydney Yockey, two 11-year-olds from San Diego. In their collaborative creation, a young girl tries to prove that spirits ring the bells in the Silver Tower, but she pays a price for her knowledge.

This year, for the first time, there’s a new production presented in association with Plays by Young Writers. For “Telling Stories: Giving Voice to Foster Youth,” professional playwright Lisa Kirazian was commissioned to write a play incorporating the heartfelt and harrowing tales told by the young participants in the Playwrights Project’s “Telling Stories” program.

 “I never thought this could be a path for me,” says Kelsey, Santee’s  newest produced playwright. “I’m really enjoying it. I’m very shy and introverted. Part of what I love about writing is that I won’t babble or mess it up. I wish I could be as adventurous as my character, Natalie.”

Right now, her adventures are all dramatic and academic, as she prepares for her world premiere, and for a career in forensic science. Now she knows for sure that whatever she does with the rest of her life, writing will be a part of it.

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Plays by Young Writers” will be produced at the Lyceum Theatre in Horton Plaza, April 1-10.

Performances are Friday, Saturday and Sunday at 7:30 pm; Tuesday-Friday mornings at 10am. Saturday and Sunday 4/9 & 4/10 at 2pm are “Inspire a Youth Performances”: Purchase an adult ticket and bring a youth for free.

Tickets ($15-20; $9-12 for groups) are available at 619-544-1000 or www.lyceumevents.org

NOTE: The presentation of “Telling Stories: Giving Voice to Foster Youth” is recommended for those 15 and older. All other plays are for age 11 and above.

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