Stephen Gregg, right, demonstrates a two-party interplay with Seth Coppens, 13, center, as Anna Konon, 9, and Clara Ferguson, 11, left, watch during a playwriting workshop at the Zach Gordon Youth Center on Friday, Oct. 19, 2018. Gregg wrote the play, “Crush,” which is being performed on Perseverance Theatre’s main stage by the Young Company. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

Stephen Gregg, right, demonstrates a two-party interplay with Seth Coppens, 13, center, as Anna Konon, 9, and Clara Ferguson, 11, left, watch during a playwriting workshop at the Zach Gordon Youth Center on Friday, Oct. 19, 2018. Gregg wrote the play, “Crush,” which is being performed on Perseverance Theatre’s main stage by the Young Company. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

‘Crush’ playwright helps kids create characters, scene

A hobbit that hates fried chicken, a ghost and more

With $10 on the line, six wide-eyed kids sputtered their way through attempts to claim the money.

Playwright Stephen Gregg had tasked the children with identifying the single most important thing to know about a character, and he was so confident no one would hit upon the right answer, he’d put $10 on the line.

One of the children observed Gregg had actually produced a $20 bill from his wallet.

“Yes, and $10 is the most I’m willing to lose,” Gregg said. “If one of you gets this right, I will break it.”

The kids laughed before raising their hands and launching answers.

After a series of incorrect guesses, Gregg gave up the answer, “What your character wants.”

“In a two-person scene, every line is to get the character what they want,” Gregg said.

Gregg, who wrote the play “Crush”currently being performed by Perseverance Theatre’s Young Company, is visiting Juneau to work with the theater and lead a couple of workshops for young, aspiring playwrights Friday afternoon at Zach Gordon Youth Center.

[Aliens meet “Our Town” in “Crush”]

The young writers in the afternoon’s first workshop worked with Gregg to create characters, and write a scene with dialogue between their protagonists and another character.

Before the workshop began in earnest, Gregg asked if anyone had ever written a play before, and he heard about some gritty works, including some “Hunger Games”-inspired dystopian fiction.

“I’m not that dark,” said Mya Hayes, 9. “I write plays about unicorns.”

Once the writing began, kids were told to consider their characters’ name, desires, defining physical traits and flaws. After much discussion and a couple rounds of theater exercises, the kids were given 10 minutes to write a short scene.

Seth Coppens, 13, wrote a prologue scene for a ghost character, Hayes wrote about a sea-controlling girl named Ocean, Eleanor Carpenter, 10, wrote a tense bird-punching scene and Clara Ferguson, 11, wrote about an incredibly poor hobbit that hates fried chicken and could also shape shift.

It was one of several characters capable of changing their appearance on demand.

“We have six writers and three shapeshifters,” Gregg said.

The writers took turns reading their scenes, sometimes with the help of a partner.

Each reading was met with applause, and in some cases laughs.

A line in a scene by Denali Schijvens, 11, about hating someone more than a Snapchat update found it’s audience.

“I don’t even have Snapchat,” Schijvens said. “I’ve just heard a lot of people complaining about it, so I threw that in.”

After the event, Gregg said the group of six was the youngest workshop he had ever lead, and he had been nervous about how well they would stay focused over two hours of character creation and writing.

He said he actually consulted with a teacher, who advised it would be a good idea to get the kids on their feet regularly.

Overall, Gregg said he was impressed.

“They’re very on top of it, considering they’re so young,” Gregg said.

And they all accomplished something.

“We’ve all written a scene from a play,” Gregg said. “Congratulations.”

Know & Go

What: “Crush”

Where: Perseverance Theatre, 914 Third St., Douglas

When: 4 p.m. Saturday, 4 p.m. Sunday and 7 p.m. Monday

Admission: $12, and $5 for students. Tickets are available online at Ptalaska.org or at the door.

Stephen Gregg holds a playwriting workshop at the Zach Gordon Youth Center on Friday, Oct. 19, 2018. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

Stephen Gregg holds a playwriting workshop at the Zach Gordon Youth Center on Friday, Oct. 19, 2018. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

Stephen Gregg holds a playwriting workshop at the Zach Gordon Youth Center on Friday, Oct. 19, 2018. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

Stephen Gregg holds a playwriting workshop at the Zach Gordon Youth Center on Friday, Oct. 19, 2018. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

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