Elizabeth Shannon, 17, is a budding actor and playwright. She was recently named a winner in the Blank Theatre’s Young Playwright’s Festival. The theater, based in Los Angeles, usually produces each play for liver performances but this year all shows are being performed virtually.
As a winner, Elizabeth was mentored by Kit Steinkellner, who is a playwright and show runner for the Facebook series “Sorry for Your Loss.” Elizabeth’s play, “Nuclear,” will be performed in Week 3 of the festival, Aug. 22 to 29. In her play “Nuclear,” it’s the end of the world and three sisters spend their last 15 minutes comforting each other the best way they know how: together.
Elizabeth got involved with playwriting when she was a sophomore in high school. As a part of the theater discipline of the Academy for the Fine Arts at Gov. Thomas Johnson High School, she and a small group of students had to write a short play together to submit to Baltimore Center Stage’s Young Playwrights Festival. Their play, “What Are You Hiding?” co-written by Morgan Southwell, was a winner of the festival in 2019, and also a top finalist in The Secret Theatre’s Act One: One Act Festival in New York City in the beginning of 2020. As winners in the Center Stage festival, the students were able to “workshop” their play with Center Stage professionals, and it was performed as part of the festival by Center Stage performers.
Based on her Center Stage success, Elizabeth was motivated to continue to write and look for ways to share her work and that led her to submit three of her plays to the Blank Theatre’s Festival. There were hundreds of play submissions, and 40 semifinalists were named. Then, of those 40, 12 plays won. “Smoke” was named a semifinalist, and “Nuclear” was named a winner.
During the lull in school and extracurricular activities with Covid, Elizabeth continues to be busy writing and participating in productions of her plays. For example, Elizabeth and Morgan’s play “What Are You Hiding?” was performed in March over Zoom in conjunction with Quarantined Theatre Company, and is currently a part of Equity Theatre Library’s Summer 2020 Virtual Festival. “Smoke” was recently performed with Ensemble, one of University of Texas El Paso’s student organizations, her play “To Be Determined” received a live-streamed reading with Rapid Lemon Productions’ Variations on Vision festival, and her play “Loaded Language” is a current semifinalist in #ENOUGH Plays to End Gun Violence project, of which there were 184 submissions and 20 semifinalists named.
For more information or to purchase a pass to see the virtual play anytime during the week, $10, visit theblank.com/young-playwrights-festival.